Ticketmaster CEO amenable to sale of TicketsNow

WASHINGTON, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Ticketmaster Entertainment Inc TKTM.O would be amenable to selling troublesome subsidiary TicketsNow, Ticketmaster Chief Executive Irving Azoff told a congressional panel, which seemed skeptical of a proposed merger with concert promoter Live Nation Inc LYV.N.

Azoff, who came to Ticketmaster four months ago, had previously said he disagreed with the decision to buy TicketsNow.

Fans of Bruce Springsteen who signed on to Ticketmaster earlier this month to buy concert tickets were told that they had sold out within minutes, and were directed to TicketsNow, which had considerably more expensive tickets.

Pressed on whether Ticketmaster would sell TicketsNow, Azoff demurred at first, but finally said that for the right price, “I would certainly vote to do that.”

While the public relations black eye that TicketsNow gave Ticketmaster would not normally be considered by the Justice Department as it assesses whether the merger is legal under antitrust law, the issue loomed large in hearings held by lawmakers troubled by what they see are high and rising concert ticket prices.

They also seem troubled that a merger of behemoths would give the new company excessive clout in the music industry.

Azoff and Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino argued that the merger was needed because of economic woes in the music industry, partially caused by widespread piracy. They predicted that a merger could create jobs.

“We do currently have a hiring freeze on. We do believe that the efficiencies created from the merger will actually create jobs on the technology side,” he said.

Azoff said he did not see layoffs for Ticketmaster but that that the company may cut less profitable accounts, like museums. “If the merger was approved, we’d be adding people,” he added.

U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, a Democrat from Georgia, noted allegations that a repeat of the Springsteen incident with TicketsNow had occurred with Leonard Cohen shows.

“There is a risk that ticket prices will increase and consumers will be harmed by this merger,” he concluded. (Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)