July 7, 2011 – By Yinka Adegoke
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SUN VALLEY, Idaho (Reuters) - Live Nation Entertainment <LYV.N>, the world's largest concert and promotions business, would benefit from being taken private, according to the company's largest shareholder.
Cable entertainment mogul John Malone said Live Nation, 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.
His comments follow a New York Post report last month that Live Nation executive chairman Irving Azoff is considering taking the company private.
"There are arguments that it would be better as a private company. Whether that's feasible is a function of how the large shareholders and management feel about it, and the financing of a deal," said Malone.
Live Nation Entertainment was created in February 2010 via the merger of the world's largest concert promoter, Live Nation, with TicketMaster Entertainment, the world's leading ticketing company which in turn owned Frontline Management, which looks after more than 200 top artists.
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It was expected 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 the deal was cleared by U.S. regulators, the live entertainment business has slowed due to a weak global economy.
Yet this has not deterred Malone from doubling down on Live Nation, which he and his lieutenant, Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei, see as a great value opportunity.
Malone, through his Liberty Media holding company, now has around 21 percent of Live Nation's outstanding float according to a June 28 regulatory filing.
The next two largest shareholders are funds Atlanta-based Shapiro Capital Management and New York-based Tiger Global Management, according to filings in March.
"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.
Live Nation was not immediately available for comment.
Malone said it was important to get Live Nation working smoothly and generating predictable financial outcomes.
"This would probably be enhanced if they were private. I'm sure Irving," said Malone.
(Reporting by Yinka Adegoke; Editing by David Hulmes)