AEG has responded to an anti-trust lawsuit filed by Ozzy Osbourne presenting the first U.S. legal challenge to AEG Live Chairman Jay Marciano's block-booking policy requiring artists who want to play the O2 arena in London to also play Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Earlier Wednesday (March 21), Osbourne filed suit in federal court, accusing AEG of violating anti-trust laws in the ongoing venue wars between AEG and Madison Square Garden, owners of the Forum in Los Angeles. Osbourne's attorney Daniel Wall with Latham Watkins accuses AEG of being a "monopolist" and trying to force Osbourne to play their venue in LA in exchange for a London date at the arena.
AEG has now responded, telling Billboard, “This suit is without merit and we will vigorously fight it. We welcome a closer look at the global live entertainment market and, specifically, our practices and the practices of our competition. AEG has always worked hard to put artists first. At the same time, we must respond to the actions of those we compete with, specifically Live Nation and Madison Square Garden. Fighting for a level playing field is fair competition at its core.”
AEG has previously said the lawsuit was a reaction to block-booking of Madison Square Garden and the Forum, a policy Azoff MSG Entertainment Chairman Irving Azoff has denied; in a letter to Billboard last year, Azoff wrote that "premium nights are going to loyal friends of the company," and he insists that both the Garden and the Forum are open buildings.
?Osbourne reportedly opposed the block-booking arrangement when routing his No More Tours 2, but ultimately relented and signed a Staples Center commitment letter in order to secure a 2019 date at O2 Arena. He followed the signing with a surprise federal class-action lawsuit, arguing the agreement "restrict(s) his freedom" and "the freedom of many other artists" to play "at a venue of their choice." He is seeking class-action status for other artists affected by the policy as well as an injunction to stop the policy.