On Friday, attorneys for Ozzy Osbourne filed paperwork to end the Black Sabbath frontman’s lawsuit with AEG over the company’s block-booking policy, a settlement that came after AEG agreed to end the policy.
We already shared our scorecard on who we thought won this chapter of the venue wars — in quick summary, we wrote that after a judge issued a four-page ruling denying AEG’s motion to dismiss Ozzy’s lawsuit, AEG backed off the block-booking policy and stopped requiring artists that want to play the O2 in London to also play Staples Center in LA.
AEG turned the concession into a victory, saying they were abandoning the policy because Madison Square Garden had allegedly ended a block-booking policy with the Forum in Los Angeles. MSG Azoff Entertainment chairman Irving Azoff said the victory really belonged to Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne, congratulating them on standing up for artists rights and winning a key victory in their anti-trust lawsuit that sought injunctive relief to stop AEG from asking promoters to sign the Staples Center Commitment Letter.
The end, right? Not exactly — on Friday, Ozzy’s attorney filed the paperwork necessary to dismiss the lawsuit and less than a day later, AEG released a statement partially authored by company owner Phil Anschutz declaring victory. While the statement was impassioned and spirited, there were a few claims made by Anschutz and AEG that seemed slightly detached from what actually had happened. Let’s go through the statement now, paragraph by paragraph:
Statement from AEG regarding dismissal of the class action lawsuit filed against AEG:
On Friday, Ozzy Osbourne dismissed the class action lawsuit he filed against AEG. This dismissal with prejudice is a victory for AEG. We were fully prepared to see the case through to vindicate our policy, but now that Osbourne has decided to dismiss with prejudice, the case is over.
It’s interesting to see Anschutz declaring victory since Osbourne only agreed to drop the lawsuit because AEG was ending the block-booking policy. Osbourne wasn’t seeking compensation or damages — he was suing for injunctive relief, meaning all Ozzy wanted was for AEG to drop the policy, which they did. The fact that it was dismissed with prejudice means that Osbourne can’t refile the suit — something AEG’s attorneys pushed for — but it doesn’t mean other artists can’t make similar claims.
Our policy was an appropriate, lawful and effective competitive response to Irving Azoff’s pressure tactics seeking to force artists into the Forum. If those tactics resurface, we will redeploy our policy as needed. The Osbourne suit was instigated by Azoff and paid for by MSG and Live Nation. It was hatched on the back of an artist who we believe had no idea what he was biting off. The suit was a transparent public relations ploy that failed to pressure AEG into backing down from a booking policy that was an effective competitive response to the MSG-Forum tie.
Biting off, huh? I wonder if that’s a not-so-subtle reference to Ozzy’s alleged biting off of a bat’s head in Des Moines, Iowa in 1982. Kind of a low-key burn, I guess.
The second part, that the Osbourne lawsuit was a failed PR ploy to unsuccessfully get AEG to back off block-booking, rings hollow since AEG did in fact drop its policy. The part about the AEG policy being effective, however, does have some truth. Block-booking did drive more concerts to Staples Center — according to Billboard Boxscore, grosses at the LA arena are up 75% over 2017, jumping from $24 million to $42 million.
It is no surprise that once AEG refused to back down, Azoff, MSG and Live Nation became eager to drop the case as soon as possible. They dismissed the case with prejudice after realizing AEG would aggressively defend it, costing them tens of millions of dollars and posing a source of embarrassment once their questionable tactics were exposed in the course of discovery and trial.
The first sentence makes no sense — Azoff, MSG and Live Nation were not party to the lawsuit and had no bearing on the legal outcome. AEG wants to tie the case to these three, arguing that Osbourne’s attorney Dan Wall with Latham & Watkins is doing Live Nation’s bidding since he has represented Live Nation in the past, but Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino told Amplify his company was not paying the bills for this legal case.
Anschutz is not a guy who likes to lose and he seems eager to take the victory away from the Osbournes and argue that he prevailed, but the truth is fairly clear: AEG was sued over its block-booking policy, and lost an early motion to dismiss the case. After meeting with his lawyers, Anschutz agreed to drop the block-booking policy and avoid a lengthy court battle with Ozzy and Sharon. The Osbournes secured the outcome they sought when they filed their lawsuit, and AEG was eventually forced to capitulate.
The tone of Anschutz’s letter fells indignant and plays fast and loose with the truth. As someone who has watched each development in the case, I’d say that Anschutz’s statement doesn’t evenly align with reality. We know what happened, because we were there every step of the way. It’s fine to have your own opinion of what transpired, but the facts of the case should not be up for the dispute. Unfortunately, Anschutz’s letter does not do an adequate job distinguishing between fact and opinion.