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Justice Department approves Ticketmaster, Live Nation merger -- with conditions

January 25, 2010 | 12:17 pm

The Department of Justice today said it will require Ticketmaster Entertainment Inc. to divest its ticketing assets and license its ticketing software before it can proceed with its proposed $2.5-billion merger with Live Nation Inc.

The DOJ's antitrust division, along with 17 state attorneys general, today filed a civil antitrust lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., to block the proposed transaction. At the same time, it filed a proposed settlement that, if approved by the court, would resolve the department's concerns about preserving competition in concert ticketing.

Under the proposed settlement, Ticketmaster must license ticket software and divest ticketing assets to two different companies, Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) of Los Angeles and either Comcast-Spectacor or another buyer,  to allow head-to-head competition with Ticketmaster. Ticketmaster will also subject itself to court-ordered restrictions on its behavior.

Ticketmaster must license a copy of its ticketing software to AEG, the nation's second-largest concert promoter and operator of major concert venues. This would allow AEG to offer an alternative source of ticketing for venues.

As part of the proposed settlement, Ticketmaster must divest Paciolan Inc., a ticketing company it currently owns, within 60 days. Comcast-Spectator, a sports and entertainment company with relationships with a number of concert venues, has already signed a letter of intent to purchase the assets. 

The merged firm would be forbidden from retaliating against any venue owner that chooses another company's ticketing or promotional services, under the proposed settlement. 

Ticketmaster and Live Nation applauded the proposed final judgment.

"Their resolution is a great win for fans," said Irving Azoff, Tickemaster chief executive.

Ticketmaster, based in West Hollywood, is the world's largest ticketing company. Live Nation is the world's largest promoter of live concerts. It is located in Beverly Hills.

Update (10:35 p.m.): For much more on the Justice Department's agreement to allow the Ticketmaster - Live Nation merger, see the story in tomorrow's Times.

— Dawn C. Chmielewski

Photo credit: Associated Press