Ozzy Osbourne‘s wife and manager Sharon Osbourne and AEG Live chairman/CEO Jay Marciano are continuing to go back and forth over the venue wars involving AEG, Live Nation and Azoff MSG Entertainment, with Sharon Osbourne saying she wants no part of it.
In an email from Thursday (Feb. 8), which was shared with Billboard, Sharon Osbourne accused Marciano of what she called “a staggering attempt to blackmail” Ozzy Osbourne into playing the Staples Center in Los Angeles, following up on a note she sent on Wednesday returning a commitment agreement for the venue unsigned. The commitment was presented as part of a deal for a concert at the O2 Arena in London on Feb. 11, 2019, as part of Ozzy Osbourne’s Live Nation-produced forthcoming farewell tour, No More Tours 2. (AEG owns both the O2 Arena and Staples Center.)
The Staples Center commitment stated that as part of a condition of Ozzy Osborne performing at the O2 Arena, if he decides to play an indoor arena within 25 miles of Los Angeles as part of the same tour cycle and that or those shows are promoted by a Live Nation-owned company, then at least one must be held at the Staples Center.
“Shame on AEG for bringing artists into a power struggle you’re having with your competitor, Live Nation,” Sharon Osbourne’s note on Wednesday said. “I can assure you that Live Nation would never strong-arm an artist into playing a venue they’re not comfortable performing in.”
On Wednesday evening, Marciano responded with a message of his own, saying, “Thank you for your note. Please understand this dispute is between The Forum and Staples Center and we couldn’t agree with you more — it should always be the artist’s choice. We long for the days when artists and fans came first.”
AEG’s block booking the Staples Center in Los Angeles and the O2 Arena in London has been a major issue in touring since it began last year in response to Azoff MSG Entertainment allegedly tying Madison Square Garden and the Forum together for several Roger Waters and Neil Diamond dates. AEG responded in kind with its major venues and has kept it up, despite claims from Irving Azoff that his company is no longer block booking its venues — a statement Marciano has said he finds dubious.
In response to AGE’s actions, Live Nation U.K. chairman Denis Desmond filed a complaint with the Competition and Market Authority (CMA), arguing they violated British competition and anti-trust laws. The CMA ultimately decided that since the dispute began in Los Angeles, it should be settled in California. So far, Live Nation and MSG have not announced any plans to pursue the issue in the U.S.
This is the first time a major artist has openly spoken up fighting the block booking policy and from Sharon Osbourne’s tone it appears she and Ozzy Osbourne do not intend to back down, going so far as to threaten legal action if the O2 date does not get confirmed.
On Thursday, Sharon Osbourne responded to Marciano, asking that if the disagreement is between the Forum and Staples Center, then why did his company send the Staples commitment letter to the tour promoter, Live Nation, to sign?
“This is a staggering attempt to blackmail OZZY into playing your venue in Los Angeles,” she wrote. “It is also a complete abuse of bargaining power and not conducive to a free market. If you do not confirm the date for OZZY at the O2 in London then I will be forced to take legal action against AEG Live! without delay.”
She continued, calling Marciano’s note “contradictory to the facts” and said, “I find the way you’re conducting yourself and your company to be no more than childish playground tactics. I cannot be involved in a squabble between two venue owning promoters as my interests only lie 100% with OZZY.”
When reached by Billboard, AEG declined to comment.