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Live Nation Clears Hurdle to Purchase Promoter

The Irish government has approved Live Nation Entertainment Inc.’s acquisition of Ireland’s biggest concert promoter, paving the way for the Beverly Hills-based live music company to expand its global reach.

Ireland’s Competition and Consumer Protection Commission announced its decision July 5, following a 10-month investigation into Live Nation subsidiary LN-Gaiety Holdings Ltd.’s proposed purchase of Dublin-based MCD Productions Ltd.

LN-Gaiety Holdings is based in London, and the United Kingdom’s Competition & Markets Authority is still reviewing the acquisition.

Live Nation is aggressively increasing its international market share. It dominates the U.S. live events market through ownership of live venues, promoters and ticketing company Ticketmaster Entertainment.

MCD Productions is the ninth biggest concert promoter in the world, according to trade publication Pollstar, which based its ranking on total tickets sold to shows booked by each promotion company.

“The assessment of a proposed transaction involving parties with interconnected activities and a sector with a limited number of players is particularly challenging and requires robust scrutiny,” said commission Chairperson Isolde Goggin in a July 5 statement.

The commission nonetheless concluded that Live Nation’s purchase would not “lead to a substantial lessening of competition in any market,” Goggin stated, provided Live Nation follows a handful of stipulations laid out in the commission’s written decision.

That includes ensuring Live Nation-owned venues don’t share information with MCD Productions about artists from other promotions companies.

MCD Productions is also forbidden from refusing to work with venues that don’t use Ticketmaster for ticketing. Irish regulators said MCD and Ticketmaster had to operate independently and conduct any negotiations on an “arms-length basis.”

Legal experts were skeptical the regulators could ensure one Live Nation subsidiary acts independently of another. “Enforcing arms-length negotiations seems particularly difficult,” said Jason Murray, an antitrust lawyer at Crowell & Moring.

Murray said the Irish government’s approach is similar to one taken by the U.S. Justice Department, which approved Live Nation’s acquisition of Ticketmaster in 2010 with certain stipulations outlined in a consent decree.

That consent decree said Live Nation couldn’t threaten to withhold talent from venues if those venues didn’t use Ticketmaster. Live event competitors including downtown-based Anschutz Entertainment Group Inc. have called the U.S. consent decree ineffective in curbing Live Nation’s anti-competitive behavior.

Live Nation holds 80% of the U.S. primary ticketing market, according to Pollstar, and 60% of the U.S. concert promotion market. Its share of the global market is less clear, but Live Nation owns more than 250 companies across 46 countries, according to its annual report.

Live Nation did not return messages seeking comment.

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