The surprise resignation of Nathan Hubbard as global president of Ticketmaster was due to be confirmed Aug. 16, ushering in a new era for the world’s largest ticketing company and subsidiary of Live Nation Entertainment.
Ticketmaster North America president Jared Smith, promoted in December from COO, will remain in that position while assuming many of Hubbard’s duties.
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 and 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 revolutionize ticket reselling.
Rapino feels positive about Smith and Yovich’s leadership of Ticketmaster: “We are looking forward to delivering even better products and services for our fans and clients, including TM+,” he says.
Neither a new Ticketmaster CEO nor a 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, [Rapino] has always been deeply engaged in the business, and he has shaped a lot of the strategic moves we’ve made,” Smith says.
Ticketmaster has been aggressive of late in launching products, successful in maintaining market share and seems primed to roll onward. Smith says Ticketmaster is performing very well in terms of client retention, profitability and growth. “We expect the business to continue to perform well the rest of this year, and as we get into 2014 and 2015, 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.
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 departure, but based on conversations with sources familiar with the situation, his resignation (some have called 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, as well as conflicting visions regarding issues like product launch strategies and Ticketmaster’s direction going forward. Hubbard, who was named CEO when Ticketmaster merged with Live Nation in 2010 (his title notably changed to “global president” in U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission 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 clash with Rapino’s own.
Since then, it has been a roller coaster for Hubbard, who declined comment. In January 2009, after an exhaustive year-long ramp-up, Hubbard, under Rapino’s direction, launched Live Nation Ticketing as a direct competitor to Ticketmaster. Though it had some 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 Live Nation Entertainment chairman Irving Azoff last December.
Hubbard and Rapino have worked well together, with Ticketmaster posting strong growth in ticket sales each year for the last three years and launching an array of new platforms, including the Live Analytics data service, innovative database marketing and an effective push into mobile ticketing. The company is about halfway into a $100 million tech investment initiative expected to yield several new products, including TM+.