Ozzy Osbourne has filed an antitrust lawsuit against venue owner and concert promoter Anschutz Entertainment Group, Inc. (AEG) for a policy that allegedly requires that acts booked at London’s O2 Arena must also perform as part of the same tour cycle at Los Angeles’ Staples Center. Both venues are owned by AEG.
The lawsuit accuses AEG of “anticompetitive conduct – specifically, tying – by Anschutz Entertainment Group, Inc. (“AEG”) and certain subsidiary and affiliate entities.” Specifically, the complaint refers to a “Staples Center Commitment,” where “AEG requires that artists and musicians cannot play London’s most essential large concert venue – the O2 Arena (“O2”) – unless they agree to play the Staples Center (“Staples”) during the part of their tours that takes place in Los Angeles.”
According to the suit, earlier this year Osbourne’s UK promoter Live Nation requested to book a date at O2 in February 2019 for the singer’s final tour, dubbed No More Tours 2. “AEG said it was available – but only on the condition that Ozzy be bound by the Staples Center Commitment,” the suit states. “Sharon Osbourne, Ozzy’s wife and business manager, publicly complained about having to sign the Staples Center Commitment, but AEG would not relent.”
Last month, Sharon Osbourne accused AEG Presents Chairman and CEO Jay Marciano of trying to “strong-arm an artist into playing a venue they’re not comfortable performing in” in an email, which is included in the complaint. Marciano responded that the “dispute is between The Forum and Staples Center,” according to the complaint. “This is a staggering attempt to blackmail OZZY into playing your venue in Los Angeles,” Sharon wrote. “It is also a complete abuse of bargaining power and not conducive to a free market. If you do not confirm the date for OZZY at the O2 in London then I will be forced to take legal action against AEG Live! without delay.”
As Billboard reports, the tying of O2 and Staples Center bookings was reportedly in response to a similar alleged tying of Madison Square Garden and The Forum bookings. Live Nation UK chairman Denis Desmond filed a complaint last year against AEG with the Competition and Marketing Authority (CMA), “arguing they violated British competition and anti-trust laws,” according to Billboard. However, CMA said that because the dispute began in Los Angeles, it should be argued in California.
Despite Sharon Osbourne’s objections, the new suit claims that Ozzy Osbourne had “no choice at all” but to sign the Staples Center Commitment. “For a major artist such as Ozzy, there is simply no substitute for the O2 Arena when booking the London leg of an international tour.”
The suit also claims “AEG is a clear monopolist in the market for arena-sized venues in greater London – indeed through management contracts it also controls a number of other large venues in greater London in addition to the O2.” Whereas, the suit states, Los Angeles offers more venue choices and competition. “Artists touring in Los Angeles have therefore been able to enjoy the benefits of competition between Staples and the Forum.” The Forum reopened in Inglewood in 2014.
“This suit is without merit and we will vigorously fight it. We welcome a closer look at the global live entertainment market and, specifically, our practices and the practices of our competition,” Jay Marciano, AEG Presents Chairman and CEO, said in a statement to Rolling Stone. “AEG has always worked hard to put artists first. At the same time, we must respond to the actions of those we compete with, specifically Live Nation and Madison Square Garden. Fighting for a level playing field is fair competition at its core.”
Osbourne is seeking class action status for “similarly situated artists” to potentially join as plaintiffs. The lawsuit seeks to “prohibit AEG from enforcing the Staples Center Commitment, an unlawful tying arrangement that unfairly leverages AEG’s dominance in greater London to distort and deter competition in greater Los Angeles. The harm to competition from the Staples Center Commitment is profound, immediate and irreparable – and must be enjoined.”