Live Nation's James Barton Is In 'Serious Talks' For A Leadership Role At SFX Entertainment

The Cream co-founder was president of electronic music at Live Nation. Can he right the ship at SFX?

SFX Entertainment has hired a dance-music veteran to help turn around its struggling business. Billboard has confirmed that James Barton, president of electronic music at Live Nation and founder of Cream (famed for its Creamfields festivals), is in "serious talks" to join SFX in an unspecified capacity that will specialize in live music and the company's lucrative festivals. The news was first reported by the New York Post.

The source also told Billboard that SFX expects to announce a significant brand partnership in the coming days. 

Barton could be the steadying presence needed at SFX. The company is an amalgamation of EDM promoters acquired from 2012 to 2014. These various companies and their festivals, ranging from TommorowWorld to Electric Zoo, have not been well managed well at the corporate level. In spite of having a portfolio of popular events and valuable brands, SFX had a net loss of $143.7 million on revenue of $306.4 million in the first 9 months of the year.

Investors reacted to the news by sending SFX shares up 11.6 percent to $0.24 in afternoon trading. That was a tiny improvement. The stock has fallen 94.5 percent in the last 12 months as chairman and CEO Robert Sillerman has twice failed to take the company private and has sought additional financing to alleviate its liquidity problems.

While the company has “really disappointed in terms of revenue and performance of the business, in my view,” according to analyst Rich Tullo, director of research at Albert Fried & Co., “in terms of attendance, they’re doing great.”

Barton, who topped Billboard's latest EDM Power Players list, is the co-founder of Cream, the legendary nightclub in Liverpool, England, and CEO of the Cream Holdings Ltd. company that held events across the world. A source close to the situation says Barton was in a difficult position at Live Nation, which also recently acquired EDM titans Insomniac (helmed by Pasquale Rotella) and Hard Events (Gary Richards), and will have more opportunity at SFX.

The Barton news comes just days after SFX revealed it has hired investment back Moelis & Co. to restructure its debt and seek opportunities to sell non-core assets.