Live Nation Wins First Battle for The Greek

Greek Theater
Robert Mora

The Los Angeles board of Recreation and Park commissioners today endorsed Live Nation's proposal, over competitor Nederlander/AEG's, to run the city's iconic Greek Theatre for ten years beginning in the fall of 2015.

The decision came today at a lively commission hearing at Friendship Auditorium, where the city agency's three voting commissioners unanimously endorsed a recommendation by the Strategic Advisory Group, an independent panel of experts commissioned by the Department of Recreation and Parks.

Today's meeting began with close to 300 impassioned speakers, from members of the community to experts and partisans from a wide variety of backgrounds, all giving conflicting testimony before the four-person commission (one recused herself from voting on the proposals, leaving the previously mentioned three to determine the outcome of today's vote). Often clad in their team colors, red for Live Nation and green for Nedlerlander/AEG, the speakers ranged from top executives (Nederlander CEO Alex Hodges, Live Nation COO Joe Berchtold and the Greek's general manager Rina Wasserman) to neighbors, theater parking attendants and food purveyors.

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In its request for proposal, Live Nation laid out its estimates: Hosting 1,400 events at the Greek over 20 years (the contract is for ten years with two additional five-year options), a $77.9 million revenue share for the city, $40 million in capital improvements to the site and some $6 million twoard a community trust.

Nederlander had claimed that the independent panel had incorrectly assessed the proposals and contended that theirs was worth some $17.5 million dollars more than Live Nation's.

Live Nation COO Joe Berchtold told Billboard after today's meeting that many of the facts had gotten "distorted." "Our simple view was that over time, when the full transparency was laid out, we were going to win," he said. "Once the panelists and the commission had time with the proposals they would see that we had the superior proposal by a wide margin."

Winning the RAP's endorsement, however, is not the final word on the the Greek concession. The contract still has to make it through the City Council and the Mayor before heading back to the Recreation and Parks Department.

When asked if he thought Live Nation would make it through the gauntlet of the city approval process, Burchtold was confident. "There is a process, and we one-hundred percent respect that process. But when the facts are borne out, the panelists, the staff, the commissioners unanimously agreed we have by far offered the superior proposal. I am confident that when the City Council and others look in-depth at our proposal they will come to the same conclusion.

Last year the Greek, with a capacity of 5,900, grossed nearly $23 million, resulting in $1.6 million in revenue-sharing for the city, according to the Recreation and Parks Department.

In a statement from Nederlander, Hodges said they were "disappointed that the Board did not carefully consider the overwhelming evidence -- that the panel's decision was premised on significant errors that infected the entire process. Today's recommendation could cost the city and taxpayers as much as $20 million over the full length of the contract. We welcome the opportunity to work with the City Council Committee on Arts, Parks, Health, Aging and River and encourage them to consider the issues that have been raised and not addressed when the Live Nation proposal is before them. We are extremely grateful for all the community support we have received, including the 27,000 people who have signed a petition in support of our operation and vision for the Greek Theatre."

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