Live Nation’s local execs: Merger, what merger? We’re here to talk about Billy and Elton

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The local office of giant concert promoters Live Nation held a press conference Tuesday morning at the same time the company’s top executives were preparing a statement on the biggest news in the history of the concert industry–but the Chicago execs pretty much declined to discuss what the Live Nation/Ticketmaster merger will mean for concertgoers here.

“We’re here to talk about Billy and Elton,” Live Nation’s President of Midwest Music Mark Campana said during the press conference at the Stadium Club at Wrigley Field. Aging middle of the road piano men Billy Joel and Elton John will be coming to Wrigley on their joint Face 2 Face Tour on July 21, and tickets go on sale Saturday at 10 a.m.

“What we can talk about is the fact that the announcement [of the merger] was made today, but I think what it’s important to talk about here today is Billy Joel and Elton John,” Campana reiterated when cornered shortly after delivering his prepared remarks.

As to how the showdown between Live Nation and Ticketmaster somehow turned into a marriage, Campana added, “We [Live Nation] are coming in as concert people, music people, in a business that hasn’t been run by music people until [new Ticketmaster chief] Irving [Azoff] got involved.”

According to Campana, the New York Times was incorrect in reporting the exact roles for each of the top executives at the soon to be renamed mega-corporation, Live Nation Entertainment. Barry Diller, the executive who launched the Fox Broadcasting Company and a previous force behind Ticketmaster, will be the new non-executive chairman; Azoff will be Chairman of the Board and CEO of Frontline Management and current Live Nation boss Michael Rapino will be executive chairman and president.

“Rapino will still be running the company,” Campana said, though Azoff clearly will play a major role. A long-time artist manager and former head of the MCA and Giant Records labels, Azoff is one of the most controversial and polarizing figures in the American music industry, with the nickname “the Poison Dwarf.” Born in Illinois, he got his start managing local bands during his time at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

Live Nation has been bringing one major act to Wrigley Field every other year since 2005, when it promoted two shows by Jimmy Buffett. Two shows by the reunited Police followed in 2007, while this year’s attraction will be the local stop of the Face 2 Face Tour, with ticket prices ranging from $55 to $175 plus service fees.

The company has so far declined to say how much those service fees will cost. But when tickets go on sale Saturday, neither Live Nation nor Ticketmaster will be handling them: They’ll be available only through (1-800-THE-CUBS), the official ticket broker of the Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball.

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