US OKs Ticketmaster-LiveNation; Comcast-Spectacor in deal

The Department of Justice has imposed major concessions upon Live Nation and Ticketmaster Monday, Jan. 25, 2010, in approving the companies' merger.(AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, file)

UPDATE: USDJ statement here

EARLIER: US Department of Justice antitrust boss Christine Varney is telling reporters in a news conference at this hour that the government has agreed to approve the controversial Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger deal.

Ticketmaster is the biggest US concert and event ticket service; Live Nation (includes Philadelphia's former Electric Factory Concerts) is the biggest concert promoter. Deal foes fear that their combination would drive ticket prices and fees outrageously higher than they already are.

The government's merger conditions: Ticketmaster must divest its Paciolan large-venue ticketing service, selling it to Philly-based Comcast-Spectacor ; and it must license Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), Ticketmaster's biggest customer, to use Ticketmaster's sales system; and it must agree to not engage in "anti-competitive behavior."

Varney says this will ensure "increased competition" between the three companies and "a lot of innovation," instead of creating the monopoly sports- and concert-goers feared...

ADD: "The companies overcame opposition from U.S. lawmakers, rival concert promoters, consumer groups and artists including Bruce Springsteen, who argued the deal centralizes too much power in concerts and ticketing. Live Nation is the world’s largest concert promoter while Ticketmaster is the leader in ticketing and artist management," reports Bloomberg here.

"The two companies agreed to combine almost a year ago. Under their accord, Ticketmaster investors will receive 1.384 shares of Live Nation, for each they now own. The combined company, to be called Live Nation Entertainment, will be led by Barry Diller as chairman, Michael Rapino as chief executive officer and president, and Irving Azoff as executive chairman and CEO of Front Line artist management."

ALSO: As Reuters noted last year: "Both Live Nation and Ticketmaster have links to powerful members of the Obama administration... Live Nation board member Ariel Emanuel is a powerful Hollywood manager who is also brother of Rahm Emanuel, the White House Chief of Staff. Ariel Emanuel was also a major Hollywood fund-raiser for Obama's election campaign ... Julius Genachowski, (Obama's) chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, was on Ticketmaster's board until March 10." 

Though Reuters doubted any of that would influence the government's decision.