After months of rumors and negotiations, Tim Leiweke and Irving Azoff's Oak View Group has announced the purchase of trade publication Pollstar, adding the 35-year-old title to its growing stable of media assets.
Leiweke and Azoff announced the sale at their VenuesNow Conference at the Beverly Hilton to an audience of more than 350 music and sports executives, and members of the company's 26-venue Arena Alliance that includes Madison Square Garden in New York, Verizon Center in Washington and TD Garden in Boston. Last year Oak View Group purchased Venues Today, and made a strategic investment in technology blog Sports Techie, hiring former Billboard veteran Ray Waddell to oversee editorial operations and conference planning.
The purchase of Pollstar is Oak View Group's biggest acquisition to date, although Leiweke has been involved in a number of high-profile deals since launching his company in 2015. Earlier this year, Leiweke was instrumental in helping the Oakland Raiders secure the right to relocate to Las Vegas, and in June his company was selected to renovate and operate KeyArena in Seattle, a contract he won away from AEG, which had operated the building for over a decade.
Leiweke's growing rivalry with AEG — he was CEO for 17 years before a falling out with owner Phil Anschutz led to his exit in 2013 — is a big question mark for Pollstar, which hosted its annual conference at AEG's LA Live campus in February. A high-ranking AEG executive tells Billboard the company is mulling a plan to pull out of Pollstar, ending advertising support, conference sponsorship and registrations, which total nearly $1 million.
Despite the potential threat from AEG, Pollstar will continue to operate at its headquarters in Fresno, California, and editor Gary Bongiovanni and CEO Gary Smith will continue their roles in day-to-day operations. Besides its weekly print magazine, the company also operates two websites and an annual conference.
"Pollstar is going to continue to be dedicated to the music and touring business," Leiweke tells Billboard. "Pollstar’s bread and butter is tracking live touring — that’s what they do. We’re committed to continuing to growing these brands and using these assets to better serve our members in the Arena Alliance."
Billboard reached out to Smith and Bongiovanni for comment, but did not receive a response.