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AEG, Osbournes both claim victory as lawsuit ends

Lawyers for Ozzy Osbourne have agreed to drop their lawsuit against AEG after the US venues giant ended its ‘Staples Center Commitment’ tying booking between Staples Center in LA and the O2 in London.

The long-running ‘booking war’ between AEG and Madison Square Garden Company (MSG) reached its conclusion earlier this month after Jay Marciano, chairman and CEO of AEG Presents, confirmed the company is no longer block booking its LA Staples Center and London O2 venues.

The Black Sabbath frontman had previously sued over the policy, which the suit said was a “explicit”, “brazen” violation of US competition (‘antitrust’) law.

Welcoming the end of the legal action, AEG says in a statement: “This dismissal with prejudice is a victory for AEG. We were fully prepared to see the case through to vindicate our policy, but now that Osbourne has decided to dismiss with prejudice, the case is over.

“Our policy was an appropriate, lawful and effective competitive response to Irving Azoff’s pressure tactics seeking to force artists into the Forum [by requiring them to also play Madison Square Garden]. If those tactics resurface, we will redeploy our policy as needed.

“It is no surprise that once AEG refused to back down, Azoff, MSG and Live Nation became eager to drop the case as soon as possible”

“The Osbourne suit was instigated by Azoff and paid for by MSG and Live Nation. It was hatched on the back of an artist who we believe had no idea what he was biting off. The suit was a transparent public-relations ploy that failed to pressure AEG into backing down from a booking policy that was an effective competitive response to the MSG–Forum tie.

“It is no surprise that once AEG refused to back down, Azoff, MSG and Live Nation became eager to drop the case as soon as possible. They dismissed the case with prejudice after realising AEG would aggressively defend it, costing them tens of millions of dollars and posing a source of embarrassment once their questionable tactics were exposed in the course of discovery and trial.”

Unsurprisingly, and in characteristically outspoken style, Sharon Osbourne, Ozzy’s wife, soon offered a rebuttal of the AEG line and instead claimed victory for Osbourne/Azoff/MSG.

A full statement, sent to Rolling Stone, reads: “We know Mr. Anshultz [sic] (aka “Daddy Big Bucks”) is living in his billionaire bubble, but the fact is that Ozzy sued AEG for the right to perform at the O2 in London. We won the case and Ozzy’s show at the O2 went on sale on September 5 for a show next year (February 11, 2019)–so in my world that means we won the case. Ozzy is playing the O2 without having to play the Staples Center, which is all that mattered to us. From the start of this dialogue in February, this has been a battle about respect for the artists and their personal preferences. It wasn’t then and isn’t now a battle between promoters, which is how this is being portrayed by the recent statement from AEG claiming this as a “victory.”

“To say this suit was ‘instigated by Azoff and paid for by MSG and Live Nation’ … is untrue and disrespectful to Ozzy, myself and the entire team”

“To say that this “suit was instigated by Azoff and paid for by MSG and Live Nation,” and that “it was hatched on the back of an artist who we believe had no idea what he was biting off,” is untrue and disrespectful to Ozzy, myself and the entire team working on this tour. Whatever differences you have with Irving Azoff, don’t presume you know who instigated the lawsuit or you know anything about Ozzy Osbourne, because you obviously don’t know anything about Ozzy’s history or mine. So stop with your hubbildy, bubbuldy BULLSHIT and your little pissing contest with Live Nation and MSG.

“Regarding the allegations in the AEG statement that this “suit was a transparent public relations ploy,” if that was indeed the case, why then did AEG rush out a statement of victory? While we, throughout this process, until now have only made one statement around the initial filing.

“Ozzy’s preference was to perform at The Forum, a venue that has been a part of his music history for more than 46 years. From the start, this was not a battle solely for Ozzy, as much as one for other artists who were being forced to abide by these rules and regulations. Let’s not all forget why you’re here … the artists.

“The only thing remotely interesting in your statement was your pitiful attempt at humor with your quote that Ozzy “had no idea what he was biting off.” If you’re interested, Ozzy and I have got something nice for you [to] bite on … our assholes … see ya loser!”


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Booking war: Ozzy sues AEG over “blatant anticompetitive conduct”

Ozzy Osbourne has brought legal action against for AEG for its block booking policy between The O2 and Staples Center, alleging that forcing artists to play both venues is an “explicit”, “brazen” violation of US competition (‘antitrust’) law.

In a class-action lawsuit filed yesterday in the US district court for central California, lawyers for Osbourne (real name John Michael) claim AEG’s policy of requiring acts who want to perform at the 20,000-cap. O2 Arena in London to also play Staples Center (21,000-cap.) in LA – allegedly dubbed the ‘Staples Center Commitment’ by AEG – is an “unlawful tying arrangement that unfairly leverages AEG’s dominance in greater London to distort and deter competition in greater Los Angeles”.

It is the latest twist in the long-running ‘booking war’ between AEG and Madison Square Garden Company/Live Nation – the latter of which has a similar tying of Madison Square Garden in New York and the Forum in LA – and marks the first legal action challenging the practice. A complaint lodged by Live Nation in the UK aimed at ending the so-called Staples Center Commitment was dismissed by the Consumer and Markets Authority (CMA) last December.

Osbourne (pictured), represented by San Francisco’s Latham & Watkins, aims, “on his own behalf and for all similarly situated artists, to prohibit AEG from enforcing the Staples Center Commitment”. The suit also seeks legal fees and “all other relief the court may deem proper and just”.

“The harm to competition from the Staples Center Commitment is profound, immediate and irreparable”

“The harm to competition from the Staples Center Commitment is profound, immediate and irreparable,” alleges the suit, “and must be enjoined”.

The lawsuit follows follows an open letter sent by Osbourne’s wife, Sharon, to AEG last month demanding the end of the block-booking policy and accusing AEG of “bringing artists into a power struggle you’re having with your competitor, Live Nation”.

After revealing AEG had sent Osbourne’s tour promoter, Live Nation, an agreement which “clearly states that Ozzy cannot play at The O2 in London unless we legally agree to play at Staples Center in Los Angeles”, Sharon warned: “If you do not confirm the date for Ozzy at The O2 in London then I will be forced to take legal action against AEG [Presents] without delay.”

Court documents make clear The O2 is at the centre of the dispute, with Latham & Watkins’ Daniel Wall, Timothy O’Mara and Andrew Gass describing the arena as “a singular concert venue – the only indoor arena in London with the capacity to host major concerts. The O2 is a ‘must-have’ venue for the top international touring artists, as witnessed by the steady stream of marquee artists who play The O2 annually.”

“This suit is without merit and we will vigorously fight it”

AEG – which also operates Wembley Arena (12,500-cap.) and the Eventim Apollo (5,039-cap.) – is, therefore, “a clear monopolist in the market for arena-sized venues in greater London”. That’s a situation set to continue for at least the next few years, although Madison Square Garden Company’s hotly anticipated new MSG Sphere London venue will shake up the market when it opens sometime around 2020.

In a statement provided to IQ, Jay Marciano, chairman and CEO of AEG Presents, responds: “This suit is without merit and we will vigorously fight it. We welcome a closer look at the global live entertainment market and, specifically, our practices and the practices of our competition.

“AEG has always worked hard to put artists first. At the same time, we must respond to the actions of those we compete with, specifically Live Nation and Madison Square Garden. Fighting for a level playing field is fair competition at its core.”

 


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