SUN VALLEY, Idaho (Reuters) - Live Nation, the world’s largest live entertainment business, would benefit from being taken private, according to the company’s largest shareholder.
Cable entertainment mogul John Malone said on Thursday that Live Nation Entertainment Inc, which is struggling with a weak U.S. economy in the aftermath of a drawn-out merger process, could turn around its business more effectively in private hands.
Shares of Live Nation rose more than 4 percent on Thursday following Malone’s comments. The New York Post reported last month that Live Nation Executive Chairman Irving Azoff was considering taking the company private.
“There are arguments that it would be better as a private company,” Malone said. “Whether that’s feasible is a function of how the large shareholders and management feel about it, and the financing of a deal.”
Live Nation Entertainment was created in February 2010 from the merger of the world’s largest concert promoter, Live Nation, with TicketMaster Entertainment, the world’s leading ticketing company. TicketMaster owned Front Line Management, which looks after more than 200 artists.
It was predicted the controversial merger would create a dominant business in live entertainment, enjoying growth from the increasing transfer of value from dwindling recorded music to live music shows.
But since U.S. regulators cleared the deal, the live entertainment business has slowed due to a weak global economy.
This has not deterred Malone from tightening his grip on Live Nation, which he and his lieutenant, Liberty Media Corp Chief Executive Officer Greg Maffei, see as a great value opportunity.
Malone, through his Liberty Media holding company, now has about 21 percent of Live Nation’s outstanding float, according to a June 28 regulatory filing.
The next two largest shareholders are the Atlanta-based Shapiro Capital Management and New York-based Tiger Global Management funds, according to filings in March. The funds and Live Nation were not immediately available for comment.
“It would be probably be nice for that company to be private for a period of time to settle down and consolidate operations,” said Malone, speaking on the sidelines of the Allen & Co conference for media, technology and deal-financing moguls in Sun Valley, Idaho.
Malone said it would be important to get Live Nation working smoothly and generating predictable financial outcomes.
“This would probably be enhanced if they were private,” Malone said. “I’m sure Irving — as he’s said publicly — would love to take it private.”
Reporting by Yinka Adegoke; Editing by David Hulmes and Gerald E. McCormick