Michael Cohl is about to embark on Act III of his storied life as one of the world's premier promoters. Live Nation recently acquired a controlling interest in the touring division of Cohl's Concert Productions International (CPI) in addition to a 50 percent interest in the Grand Entertainment division of CPI, known for its promotion of Rolling Stones tours. As part of the deal, Cohl, the man been behind megatours like Pink Floyd and U2, will join Live Nation's Board of Directors, which will now expand to 10 company directors, according to a press release from LN spokesperson John Vlautin; neither Cohl nor an LN spokesperson were available for comment.
Cohl's resume as a major tour producer is impressive, but he's also known for blazing trails by adding on such extras as VIP ticketing, fan clubs, merchandising and DVD's to those outings, which fits in with some new LN initiatives. Terms of the deal were not announced. CPI will still operate as a separate unit and will work alongside the existing global LN touring division led by Arthur Fogel, leading the way in LN's initiatives to securing rights to recordings, films and DVDs. LN recently announced a plan to finish wiring 120 of its venues with digital live studios capable of recording and transmitting live concerts for TV, cell phones and radio by the end of this summer (VT e-newsletter, May 24, 2006).
The huge project rolled out at 36 venues in the U.S. last year and is in the process of being carried out at 84 more in the U.S., Canada and Europe this year, fitting each venue with next-generation studios that can capture and repurpose live concerts for use in a variety of media, including terrestrial and satellite radio, 3G delivery for cellphones, high definition TV, video on demand, podcasts and other means of digital distribution.
“Under Michael Cohl's leadership, CPI has established an impressive track record of expanding the relationship between artists and fans beyond the live event,” said LN CEO Michael Rapino in a statement. “CPI has consistently been a leader in creating new revenue streams centered around the live show.” The acquisition is also something of a family reunion for Cohl, who will be re-teamed with Fogel, with whom he helped build TNA into one of the world's most successful worldwide touring operations. In addition to promoting concerts for more than 35 years, Cohl created and produced the World Professional Skating Championships for ABC, produced on and off-Broadway shows and dabbled in film projects, including the top-selling music DVD of all time, the Rolling Stones. 'Four Flicks.'
Cohl is also credited with developing the concept of global touring, working with artists to strategize and route tours, as well as boosting such aftermarket revenue streams as books, TV shows, videos and merchandise. Live Nation also announced this week that veteran promoter Bruce Moran has been named president of Live Nation New York and his longtime friend and capo Phil Ernst has been named senior vice president. Moran's new gig will have him overseeing the company's regional concert booking, marketing and promotion, as well as supervising and guiding the New York staff.
“It's actually a tiny bit better than that,” said Moran, who officially starts his new job on June 19, but admitted to being a bit worn out from going out to cover a recent pair of Pearl Jam shows. “My production manager Phil Guiliano is coming along, too. Phil [Ernst] and I have a wonderful comfort level. Both of us started out as agents at ICM in 1985 and we worked together from '85 until 1990 and then when I opened up this office in 1994, I started courting him. It took a few years to get him over here, but I finally landed him in 1999.”
Moran was previously the CEO of OCESA Presents/CIE USA Entertainment, where he managed the company's international booking and talent buying operations and ran its U.S.-based businesses. During his 12-year tenure, he established Mexico as the hottest concert market in Latin America by booking and producing shows for everyone from U2 to The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Metallica and Madonna. And in addition to being excited about his new sandbox, life-long New Yorker Moran said he's equally psyched about the shorter commute. “One immediate difference that comes to mind is that I'll be able to cover a show without flying 4,500 miles round trip,” he joked. “All kidding aside, it's a wonderful opportunity to keep up the grand tradition begun in that office by Ron Delsener. It will be an honor to carry it forward. I'll continue to buy topnotch national and international talent, but candidly, the stage is bigger.”
Ernst, who began working with Moran at OCESA Presents/CIE in 2000, will help oversee LN's booking in the New York region. While at OCESA Presents/CIE, Ernst worked with artists such as Eric Clapton and Pearl Jam and was the associate producer of the Tony Award-nominated Musical 'Tango Argentino.' In the performing arts world, Michael Taormina starts his new job as managing director of the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre in Atlanta June 19. He replaces Wendy Riggs. This will be the third performing arts center Taormina has opened. The others include the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts in Pittsburgh and the Hobby Center in Houston.
“I didn't open New Orleans (Cultural Center and New Orleans Theatre of the Performing Arts), but I remodeled it,” he added.
Taormina has worked in the performing arts business for 30 years. Having been in Houston for five years, he's looking forward to 'four seasons again,' and, of course, to debuting the 2,750-seat, $145 million PAC, which opens in September 2007. Meanwhile, Matt Hollander has been promoted to general manager of the newly renovated $71 million MassMutual Center, Springfield, for Global Spectrum. He had been assistant general manager and has now taken Pat Montgomery's place as Montgomery moved on to Citizen's Bank Ballpark in Philadelphia.
Hollander has been in the business for 15 years, but did take a two-year sabbatical to be an entrepreneur, opening a commercial refrigeration business with a partner. It did not weather 9/11, he said, so he returned to his true love, venue management, joining Global Spectrum in 2003 as director of operations at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Fla. His first priority in Springfield is increasing awareness of the convention center operations while continuing in Montgomery's wake in aggressively pursuing concerts and events. The building's value to the community is not just direct dollars, but in generating business in the entire market, he said. Several northeastern civic centers, once prime concert venues, are adding meeting space to broaden their appeal, he noted.
Interviewed for this story: Michael Taormina, (713) 807-0551; Matt Hollander, (413) 271-3259; Bruce Moran and Phil Ernst, (212) 586-0222