Irving Azoff said he resigned as chairman of Live Nation Entertainment on Monday because “the process of being a public company in America right now sucks if you’re an entrepreneur.”
In an exclusive interview with TheWrap, Azoff, whose position at the head of the largest concert promoter and ticket-seller in the world made him uniquely powerful in the music industry, said he was tired of the demands of a public company and wanted to go back to managing talent.
“Life at a public company ain’t for me,” Azoff (right, with Judd Apatow at TheGrill) said. “The board pays you what you're worth, then you get reamed for your compensation. They don’t like the way you elect directors, you should be giving options. It’s horses—. You can’t be an entrepreneur and work in a public company anymore."
He went on: “I bit off more than I could chew. I can’t get through the day with 600 emails and 250 phone calls and feel good about it anymore. There’s a zillion meetings that came off my schedule today that were not creating any revenue, that I did because we’re a public company.”
The Live Nation board renewed CEO Michael Rapino’s contract last week, but Azoff has been agitating to be released from his contract, which is not up until 2014.
Azoff said the decision for him to leave was “mutual” with the board of Live Nation and was decided shortly after the last board meeting on Dec. 10.
He told TheWrap he is taking his top clients with him, including The Eagles, Christina Aguilera, Van Halen, Steely Dan and Jennifer Hudson. He also said he would remain on the board of Clear Channel and the sports management company IMG.
Azoff is a legendary figure in the American music business, having started out in talent management. He was chief executive of Ticketmaster in 2010, when the ticketing company merged with Live Nation. He was named executive chairman at the time of the merger, and chairman of the board the following year.
He also retained his position as chief executive of Front Line, his management company, which was part of the merger.
Azoff said his resignation had nothing to do with Live Nation’s financial results, and that selling his shares to Liberty Media did not indicate any conflict with that stakeholder. He said the company would likely end 2012 with about $470 million in operating income.
Live Nation's shares closed up 0.4 percent at $9.31 a share on Monday. The stock had been trading above $12 per share in the middle of 2011, dropped precipitously, and is now back at around $9.50 per share.
That too was a frustration, Azoff said. “With the merger the company was making in the $300s [million in operating income], and the stock went from $12 to $8.50 – what kind of bulls— is that?”
Azoff was a keynote speaker at TheGrill’s media conference in October 2012, where he discussed the state of the concert business, as well as his career arc.