Live Nation Entertainment, the giant concert company that includes Ticketmaster, is in advanced negotiations to buy the management companies behind U2 and Madonna, according to several people with direct knowledge of the talks.If the deal is consummated, it will further strengthen Live Nation’s already deep ties with U2 and Madonna, two of the highest-earning and most durable pop acts of the last 30 years.
As part of the deal, Live Nation would pay more than $30 million for both Principle Management, the company of U2’s longtime manager, Paul McGuinness, as well as Maverick, run by Guy Oseary, Madonna’s manager, according to these people, who spoke on the condition that they not be named because they were not authorized to discuss the deal publicly.
In what would be one of the most surprising shifts in years among the forces behind pop megastars, Mr. Oseary, 41, would take over the day-to-day management of U2. Mr. McGuinness, 62, who has managed U2 almost since its inception — and in doing so became one of the most highly esteemed executives in the music business — would become Principle’s chairman, with a role that was not fully clear.
A spokeswoman for Live Nation declined to comment, and Mr. Oseary could not be reached Tuesday afternoon.
In a statement, Mr. McGuinness said: “It could be seen as slightly poor etiquette for a manager to consider retiring before his artist has split, quit or died, but U2 have never subscribed to the rock ’n’ roll code of conduct. As I approach the musically relevant age of 64 I have resolved to take a less hands-on role as the band embark on the next cycle of their extraordinary career.
“I am delighted that Live Nation, who with Arthur Fogel have been our long term touring partners, have joined us in creating this powerful new force in artist management. I have long regarded Guy Oseary as the best manager of his generation, and there is no one else I would have considered to take over the day-to-day running of our business.”
According to Pollstar, a concert industry trade magazine, the top 10 highest-grossing tours include four by U2 and one by Madonna. U2’s last tour, called 360, had more than $700 million in ticket sales and was seen by nearly seven million people around the world.
Live Nation, which besides its concert promotion and ticketing business manages the careers of some 200 acts through its Artist Nation division, has had close ties with both U2 and Madonna for years. In 2007, it struck a $120 million deal with Madonna that covered touring and recorded music rights for a decade, and it later sold the recording rights to Universal. In 2008, it made a deal with U2 to handle the band’s touring and merchandising exclusively for 12 years.
Bilboard magazine says U2 is readying a new album for tentative release in April,and is shopping for brand partners to announce the new project via a Super Bowl commercial. Leading the meetings for Bono, McGuinness & Co. is Oseary, who's been reaching out to potential sponsors on the band's behalf, according to four executives familiar with plans. Danger Mouse has been producing the set, which was recorded primarily at New York's Electric Lady Studios.