The surprise exit of Nathan Hubbard as Global President of Ticketmaster was made official on Friday, ushering in a new era for the world’s largest ticketing company and subsidiary of Live Nation Entertainment.
His departure from the company was confirmed in a regulatory filing.
Ticketmaster North American President Jared Smith, promoted in December of last year from COO, will remain in that position, but will assume many of Hubbard’s responsibilities.
Smith and Ticketmaster International President Mark Yovich will jointly report to Live Nation Entertainment CEO Michael Rapino. Smith’s responsibilities will expand to encompass much of what had been under Hubbard’s purview, including global contact centers, ticketing product groups, customer service, client relations, and such internal functions as legal and human resources. The company is now poised to roll out its new secondary platform TM+, which it claims will revolutionizeticket reselling.
“This is a really exciting time for Ticketmaster, and we have an extraordinary team, led by Jared and Mark,” says Rapino. “We are looking forward to delivering even better products and services for our fans and clients, including TM+.”
Neither a new Ticketmaster CEO nor global president are expected to be named, at least in the short term, although industry scuttlebutt has it that a search has been underway for a new hire in the executive ranks.
Smith seems positioned to be the client-facing leader for Ticketmaster in the post-Hubbard era, and Rapino will continue to be hands-on in Ticketmaster affairs. “From the inside out, I would tell you [Rapino] has always been deeply engaged in the business, and he has shaped a lot of the strategic moves we’ve made,” Smith tells Billboard.
Ticketmaster has been aggressive of late in launching products, successful in maintaining market share, and seems primed to roll onward. Smith says TM is performing very well in terms of client retention, profitability, and growth. “We think we have a great plan in place, and we’ve got a great team to execute against the strategy, and none of this changes the strategy we’re on,” he says. “We expect the business to continue to perform well the rest of this year, and as we get into ‘14 and ‘15, it’s really going to be about getting this resale platform out.”
The “resale platform,” clearly a priority for the company, is TM+, currently in beta, which will allow primary and secondary market tickets to be sold on the same Ticketmaster site. “We think it’s going to be the best solution—the industry solution—for one of the biggest problems that we have,” Smith says, adding that TM will “continue to invest in technology from a platform standpoint, which will drive us into a bunch of new areas, both interms of more efficient solutions, and also opportunities to do new things and power new businesses.”
Hubbard has been a passionate leader for Ticketmaster, which makes his exit all the more puzzling for some. No one’s talking publicly about his exit, but based on conversations with numerous sources familiar with the situation, his resignation (some have termed it an “ouster,” which seems unlikely, given his success and the fact that his contract runs until 2015) seems at least partially related to tensions between he and Rapino, and conflicting visions on such issues as product launch strategies and the direction of Ticketmaster going forward. Hubbard, who was named CEO of Ticketmaster when it merged with Live Nation in 2010 (his title notably changed to “global president” in SEC filings early this year), came to Live Nation through the acquisition of the Music Today direct-to-fan platform in 2006, and his fan friendly initiatives seemed to gibe with Rapino’s own out of the gate.
Since then, it has been a roller coaster for Hubbard, who declined to comment for this story. In January of 2009, after an exhaustiveyear-long ramp up, Hubbard, under Rapino’s direction, launched Live Nation Ticketing as a direct competitor to Ticketmaster. Though it had some predictable glitches, the ticketing division ultimately worked, only to be scuttled post-merger. But Hubbard emerged as Ticketmaster’s CEO when the dust settled, and has survived corporate shakeups, including the departure of former LNE chairman Irving Azoff last December.
Ticketmaster has thrived under Hubbard’s watch, working in tandem with Rapino to launch a wide array of new platforms, including the Live Analytics data services, innovative database marketing, and an effective push into the mobile ticketing space. More importantly, TM has maintained its market share in the face of the fiercest competition since it rose to dominance more than 20 years ago. The company is about halfway into a $100 million tech investment initiative expected to yield several new products, including TM+. Though not without its controversies, the company has also made great strides in the world of fan perception, due in no small part to the efforts of Hubbard, who also has been vocal in his opposition to ticket scalping and the use of unfair practices to procure tickets.
With or without Hubbard, Ticketmaster’s scale and aggressive product rollout keeps it positioned well ahead of the competition, even as digital technology has led to a proliferation of new ticketing solutions. Smith, a 10-year veteran of TM, quickly rose through the ranks, and has proven a savvy tech innovator with a deep understanding of how those innovations can ultimately sell more tickets.
“What you’ve seen over the last couple of years since the merger is the endorsement of the world’s largest content provider saying, ‘this is the platform that can take us to the next level,’ and then, on top of that, Live Nation’s investment in Ticketmaster at a completely different level than we’ve seen in the recent past,” Smith says. “Clients have seen that, and they’re starting to see new productions, new solutions, new fan features on the website that were slower going previously, and that has really driven the confidence they have in what we’re doing.”