Diller quit over Live Nation's board rifts - Malone

Fri Oct 1, 2010 2:54pm EDT

* Diller was "fed up" with board conflicts - Malone

* Diller had asked board to seek new chair year-end

* Live Nation's Azoff does not see ticket price increases

By Yinka Adegoke

NEW YORK, Oct 1 (Reuters) - Barry Diller resigned as chairman of Live Nation Entertainment Inc (LYV.N) because he had grown tired of dealing with rifts among board members over strategy, fellow director and Liberty Media Chairman John Malone said in an interview on Friday.

Diller's plan to step down as chairman Live Nation was leaked earlier this week, stoking speculation that the future of the world's largest live music company was in jeopardy and reviving stories of tension between Malone and Diller, who is also CEO of IAC/InterActiveCorp (IACI.O).

Liberty Media (LINTA.O) holds a 14.6 percent stake in Live Nation.

Live Nation -- formed from the consolidation of the No. 1 concert promoter with Ticketmaster Entertainment, in which IAC owned a stake, and Front Line Management, the world's leading artist management company -- dominates the U.S. live entertainment business.

The company's prominence in the entertainment business is matched only by the out-sized egos of its board members, comprised of Hollywood elites.

But since its inception in February 2010, its sales have been hurt by the decline in consumer spending and fewer artist tours. Its boardroom infighting has also become press fodder.

Executive Chairman Irving Azoff told Reuters the reports of boardroom conflict were "overblown."

"Hollywood is full of bloggers and characters and most of them are on our board," he joked with investors attending Liberty Media's annual shareholder conference.

Malone said Diller had asked the board if it was prepared to seek a new chairman if he were to step down at the end of the year and had been blindsided by the leak.

"Barry got fed up dealing with the three sides," said Malone, referring to the Live Nation, Front Line and Ticketmaster factions on the board. Diller had planned all along to step down at the end of the year, Malone said.

Azoff, veteran manager of The Eagles rock group and founder of Front Line, said Live Nation had been hurt by the economic downturn. He also said both sides of the business took their eye off the ball amid a vigorous 12-month regulatory review of the deal that created the company. That deal was hotly contested by smaller rivals in the live music business.

Azoff said most of his conversations with artists and managers have been about warning that ticket prices cannot keep rising in the economic environment for the foreseeable future.

"If we cut ticket prices we will sell more tickets to live shows," he said. (Reporting by Yinka Adegoke; editing by John Wallace)

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