AEG Live could add as much as $100 million in gross revenue in 2013 after being confirmed as the North America promoter on the Rolling Stones' 50 and Counting tour in a last-minute deal reached just four days after the promoter's parent company AEG was pulled off the market by owner Philip Anschutz. According to a source familiar with the deal, the Stones' camp reached out to AEG Live with financial terms on March 18, and Anschutz quickly approved a deal that day worth nearly $80 million in cash and a letter of credit. In an extremely rare turn of events for a band known for strategic planning, the Stones had a new promoter less than two months before the tour would begin. AEG Live's Concerts West division, steered by co-presidents Paul Gongaware and John Meglen, will oversee 50 and Counting in North America.
It was always highly doubtful the Stones would reconvene for a mere five dates commemorating their 50th anniversary (two shows each in London and Newark, N.J., and a Brooklyn play). If the pay-per-view from the second Newark show (Dec. 15) did less-than-spectacular business, as industry chatter indicated, at the very least the Stones' onstage vigor and still-powerful swagger that night served as a compelling infomercial for more shows.
The PPV was a key element of the Stones' deal with the 50th-anniversary show promoters Paul Dainty and Virgin Music. In a fierce bidding war with AEG, Live Nation and former Stones producer Michael Cohl, Dainty and Virgin won out with an estimated $25 million bid to present the anniversary concerts. That deal ended with those five shows, but still gave Dainty and Virgin a leg up in negotiating future dates. For quite a while it seemed like Dainty and Virgin would promote the North American tour, as sources told Billboard in early March that a deal in principle had been reached.
But, despite financial backing from several U.S. independent promoters, Dainty was apparently unable to deliver a deal palatable to the band. And while Dainty had an inside track for the predetermined 18 shows in North America, AEG had already struck a deal to promote the Stones' Hyde Park shows in London in July, and had been a highly motivated bidder to work with the Stones dating back to well before the December dates. As Dainty's deal faltered in the ides of March, AEG had distractions of its own: On March 14, AEG announced it was coming off the block, CEO Tim Leiweke would step down, owner Anschutz would become more involved, Dan Beckerman would be CEO and London-based U.K./European president Jay Marciano would move to Los Angeles as COO.
Suddenly AEG, the world's second-largest promoter, was very much back in the running to work with the Stones.
The December sellouts grossed $38.7 million, according to Billboard Boxscore. While that would seem like a healthy profit on a $25 million guarantee, margins on Stones' shows are especially tight, given the huge production values and other show costs. So while AEG won the battle for the Stones, winning the war comes in making 50 and Counting profitable-no walk in the park considering average ticket prices this time out will be lower.
The tour will begin in early May on the West Coast, with announced markets including Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Toronto. AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips doesn't rule out other cities making the route. "Maybe in one market we want to do two shows and not a third," he says, "and in such case we might look at another market."