Live Nation (NYSE:LYV), the world's largest concert promoter, is facing a serious shakeup. The company is "negotiating the exit" of Michael Cohl, the company's chairman, according to the Wall Street Journal. Cohl's been pushing the company's "360 deals" with superstar musicians, paying Madonna, U-2 and Jay Z well over $100 million to get a share of every aspect of their businesses.
And apparently he's been battling over them with the company's CEO, Michael Rapino, who wants to slow down on these deals, which many have called expensive and risky. This makes the whole situation particularly controversial because Live Nation has basically staked its future on these deals.
Needless to say, the music industry is in a shambles. Even the biggest music superstars aren't sure things. Madonna's latest album release was a huge disappointment in terms of sales, confirming some concerns that Live Nation has spent too much on these deals, too optimistic about what superstars are really worth. LYV stock is down about 45 percent over the past 12 months, and it traded down nearly 10% on Friday.
But Cohl's departure raises a number of questions. Will his nine-year non-compete clause remain in effect and be part of his existing settlement? Will he take some of those big name clients with him and start a competitor business? Or is he so crucial to LYV's relationship with these artists that they'll push to keep him?
And then there's the big picture question--other than concerts is there any way to really make money on the music business? This morning Miller Tabak downgraded the stock from Buy to Neutral, lowering its price target from $18 to $14. Meanwhile Standard & Poors downgraded the stock from Sell to Strong Sell. There's a huge conflict here between the need to reinvent the business model behind the music business and LYV's need to perform for investors. Based on the movement of the stock, it seems like Wall Street isn't so optimistic on LYV's strategy.