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LIveNation sells Supercross with Motor Sports division

September 10th, 2008 · No Comments · Industry, Racing

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No surprise here as Live Nation has sold off its entire motorsports division to Feld Entertainment in a deal valued at $205 million. The sale is the latest step in Live Nation’s current corporate gin rummy hand — the predictable, cyclical business of first acquiring unrelated businesses to “leverage synergy for increased profits and growth” and then, a few years later, selling them off to “release pent up value for increased profits and growth.” Funny, that.

We have stated here before our position that Live Nation had very little, if any, corporate commitment to Supercross and that believing otherwise was naive. At best there is only marginal synergy between motor sports events and music concerts. Live Nation have known this since their inception as a spin-off from media conglomerate Clear Channel at the end of 2005. In 2006 they began selling off everything that was not “core” to the music concert business — including theatrical shows, sports representation, and real estate. The company has now sold off more than $460 million in non-core businesses.

With Live Nation completely out of the Supercross business, who is in charge? Feld Entertainment, the parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey circus, Disney on Ice, Disney Live, and other live attractions.

What is most interesting about Feld is their description of themselves:

Feld Entertainment is the worldwide leader in producing and presenting live entertainment experiences that lift the human spirit and create indelible memories, with 30 million people in attendance at its shows each year.

This is clearly not Live Nation — the company that promotes Fergie, Rob Zombie, and Madonna among dozens of others. I haven’t seen a self-promo that corny in years. But maybe it’s time we had someone in charge of Supercross that at least has a clue what the term “family entertainment” means.

The entire Clear Channel/Live Nation episode of Supercross history has been a gut-wrenching experience for true motocross fans, who watched as their beloved sport turned into a cartoon-like caricature, a frenzy of near-naked girls and violent crashes feverishly pitched at hormone-addled 18-year-old boys and pro wrestling fans.

Yes, the sport grew. Yes, it brought in more money. Yes, a handful of riders can now make contracts well into the 7-figure range and a good number more can make nice 6-figures. But yes, it also become “sports entertainment”, just like monster truck racing and the WWE. I don’t know that Feld intends anything differently, but I feel no loss for Live Nation.

For now, Feld says they will keep everything intact at the Aurora, IL HQ of the former Live Nation Motor Sports, including all management, schedules, partnerships, and structure. Changes will likely begin late 2009, as Feld gets a feel for what they do and do not like about the new business.

There are many, many possibilities for the future. Far too many to cover here, and at least as many bad as good. But one thing we can be sure of, nothing stays the same in these scenarios.

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