Live Nation chairman Cohl negotiating exit

By | June 20, 2008 at 5:17 AM

Concert promoter Live Nation Inc. is negotiating the exit of its chairman, Michael Cohl, amid a dispute between him and CEO Michael Rapino, according to a newspaper report Thursday.

Cohl and Rapino have been battling over contracts known as “360 deals” that give the company an all-encompassing stake in an artist’s business, including albums, touring, merchandising, and television and film projects, The Wall Street Journal reported on its Web site.

Live Nation already has inked such deals with artists Madonna and Jay-Z, reportedly worth $120 million and $150 million, respectively. Cohl wants to accelerate the pace of the dealmaking, while Rapino wants to slow it down, the Journal said.

Live Nation’s board told Cohl and the company’s management to work out their differences, and the resolution appears likely to include an agreement on Cohl’s departure as soon as next week, the Journal reported, citing unnamed people close to the situation. Key terms of the deal have yet to be resolved.

Live Nation spokesman John Vlautin declined to comment on the report.

Cohl founded Toronto-based Concert Productions International Inc. in 1973, then last year became Live Nation’s chairman and largest individual shareholder after Live Nation bought his company for $133 million in mostly stock.

Los Angeles-based Live Nation promotes and produces music shows, theatrical performances and other live events worldwide. It also manages or has a stake in more than 160 venues.

Rapino has been steering the company beyond its traditional concert promotion business to the “360 deals,” giving it access to revenue from artists services such as direct merchandising, concert DVD sales and exclusive ticket sales. But the Madonna deal announced in October got mixed reactions on Wall Street, with some analysts questioning whether Live Nation can squeeze out a significant profit.

The company’s shares, which peaked around $25 early last year, have fallen about 40 percent since news of the Material Girl’s deal. They rose 34 cents, or 2.7 percent, to close at $13 Thursday.

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