Irving Azoff Calls Report on Reason for MSG CEO's Departure 'Pure Fiction'

Courtesy of AMSG
Irving Azoff

After two days of industry head scratching following the sudden ousting of David "Doc" O'Connor as president and CEO of the Madison Square Garden Co., one tabloid-ready theory has emerged to explain it: Doc lost a "face-off" with Irving Azoff.

The company announced O'Connor's departure on Monday without offering an explanation, only that he was out after two years in the role, and that MSG chairman James Dolan would replace him as interim CEO. According to sources to the New York Post, Azoff's "fingerprints were all over O'Connor's walking papers," alleging that Azoff had grown frustrated with the progress of MSG's planned arena in Las Vegas.

That theory isn't sitting well with Azoff, however. "I was never contacted by the New York Post for comment and their reporting is pure fiction." Azoff told Billboard in a statement.

A representative for MSG told Billboard that the company does not comment on internal staffing matters.

In addition to being a legendary artist manager and head of the boutique performing rights ­organization Global Music Rights, Azoff is chairman and chief exec of Azoff MSG Entertainment, a four-year-old joint venture with the Dolan family-controlled MSG.

O'Connor joined MSG in June 2015 following a career-long tenure at CAA, where he rose to managing partner and part-owner, along with serving as manager to clients including Lorne Michaels, Bruce Willis and Ivan Reitman. He had replaced former Cablevision exec Tad Smith, who in turn succeeded Hank Ratner in the president/CEO seat.

As previously reported, the O'Connor era at MSG appeared to be working, with stock climbing 44 percent during his tenure as he signed entertainers like Jerry Seinfeld and Billy Joel to residencies at some of MSG's venues.

Until a new chief executive can be found, Dolan will again step in as interim CEO, something he has done during previous gaps. One of his first moves as acting CEO was to announce on Tuesday the sale of the New York Liberty, the company's 21-year-old WNBA franchise.

"This was a difficult decision for us, which we made after carefully assessing the needs of our business," Dolan said. "We are confident that new ownership can build on the foundation we established over these last 21 years, and steward this incredible franchise into an even more successful future."

UPDATE: A previous version of this story listed MSG's stock increase during the last two years at 200 percent. That figure has been corrected to 44 percent.


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