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Greek Theatre Contract

LA City's Decision to be made Thursday Morning

This Thursday, October 9, at 8:30 am, the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks will award a new contract for operation of the Greek Theatre, the iconic outdoor venue in Griffith Park. The new contract could stay in place as long as 20 years.

Nederlander Concerts, who characterizes itself as "a family-owned company," has been running the venue for the past 39 years, and has, through the new bid process, taken AEG (Anschutz Entertainment Group) as a partner.

Nederlander wants to continue running and booking the Greek, but it has encountered fierce competition.

Enter the recently-merged Live Nation/Ticketmaster, whose challenge to take over is, at the moment, winning. Nederlander characterizes its competitor as "a publicly traded Wall Street conglomerate."

Let's get to the substance of things.

Nederlander's statement reads, "At a time when the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks is trying to solve a funding crisis, our joint venture proposal with AEG Live guarantees at least $77,500,000 in rent to the City, which is $17,500,000 more than our opponent’s offer. Just think what over $17 million can do to support local community needs!"

The financial numbers are eye-popping. All the numbers at the venue are big.

The Greek Theatre just completed the last month with more than 20 shows. That was more than Staples Center, the Forum, Nokia Theatre, and the Palladium combined.

For its part, Live Nation/Ticketmaster is staying quiet -- after gaining the recommendation of General Manager Michael A. Shull to his L.A. Recreation and Parks Department Board.

One obvious red flag is that Live Nation's proposal includes a new "Greek Theatre Community Trust" -- a fund controlled by Live Nation -- "for the purpose of irrevocably receiving funds generated through a 'special ticket sales program.'"

On September 26th, Live Nation/Ticketmaster was revealed as the winning bidder through the Request For Proposals (RFP) process for the new contract. But that's not the end of the story. The full board still must act to award a contract.

"Related documents" from the RFP/Proposal bid and acceptance process were made available for public review on September 30 -- the day before the City's Recreation and Parks Board was to accept the recommendation to make the reward and begin negotiations on a new agreement, a Pollstar story revealed a week ago.

You can view all those documents here.

Nederlander's attorney, Andrew Kugler, sent a six-page protest letter to board president Sylvia Patsouras. Kugler cited the release of documents was less than one full business day before the board’s meeting, which seems irregular and unfair.

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Kugler's point was, this "effectively prevents" stakeholders, including Nederlander-AEG, "from having a meaningful opportunity to scrutinize the recommendation... until after the Board votes to approve the award."

Kugler's letter continues, “Put simply, there needs to be transparency in this process, particularly given the significant red flags raised by the Board Report."

One obvious red flag is that Live Nation's proposal includes a new "Greek Theatre Community Trust" -- a fund controlled by Live Nation -- "for the purpose of irrevocably receiving funds generated through a 'special ticket sales program.'" That program's fund would be "established using a guaranteed minimum of 50 premium seat tickets for each show to be held by Live Nation at the Greek Theatre."

That, from the Live Nation/Ticketmaster proposal.

For being a very big deal involving a whole lot of money and reaching five presidential terms into the future, there has been surprisingly little public dialog. Indeed, the RFP that began the process wasn't issued until June 4th.

Despite the Recreation and Parks Department General Manager's endorsement of Live Nation/Ticketmaster in this accelerated RFP/proposal acceptance process and the momentum it produces, Nederlander apparently believes it still can win.

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Nederlander's latest statement, released this morning, asserts, "...our proposal takes great care of The Greek, including:

  • A complete historic renovation revealing The Greek’s original 1930’s stage columns, while adding modern amenities
  • A complete re-landscaping of the plaza and hillside
  • A new restaurant and upgraded concession offerings
  • A 365 day a year café to service people who enjoy Griffith Park
  • A comprehensive environmental plan to minimize the Greek’s impact on the environment
  • An increased and continued support of the local community and its arts programs
  • And our continued commitment to be Los Angeles’ best music venue!"

Nederlander has established a website to support their bid.

And they have a Change.org petition to send public signatures and sentiments to city officials.

(Yes, it's ironic that Nederlander-AEG is using a "Change.org" petition when their goal is to avoid a change that would give them the boot.)

For their part, Live Nation/Ticketmaster did offer to make a larger capital investment over the maximum 20-year life of a new contract. But that's tied with those nebulous points about 50 uber-expensive tickets per show, set aside for rich 1%-ers, and a "community trust" that the for-profit entity would administer, and whatever all that would entail.

The new final decision who will operate L.A.'s Greek Theatre, possibly for the next two decades, will be made at 8:30 am this Thursday morning at the City Recreation and Parks board meeting in Friendship Auditorium, 3201 Riverside Drive, L.A. 90027. The public can comment and attend, up to the capacity of the facility.

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Larry Wines