Arts & Entertainment

Live Nation, Nederlander/AEG battle for Greek Theatre to continue

Supporters of Live Nation face off with those supporting Nederlander/AEG on Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014.
Supporters of Live Nation face off with those supporting Nederlander/AEG on Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014.
Shirley Jahad/KPCC

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The tug-of-war between concert venue operators Live Nation and Nederlander/AEG over who will control the iconic Greek Theatre in Los Angeles’s Griffith Park continued Thursday before an overflow crowd.

About 150 people signed up to speak during a public comment session at Thursday's public hearing on the issue. In the end, the Board of Commissioners for the L.A. Parks Department decided to hold off for at least two weeks before voting on which group they think should win the contract to operate the venue for the next 10 to 20 years.

“The Greek Theatre is a jewel in the city of L.A., so we need to do everything to make sure it’s a competitive and fair process,” said Iris Zuniga, vice president of the Parks Board of Commissioners.

Griffith Park’s Friendship Auditorium was divided into teams of people in red and green T-shirts. Live Nation supporters wore red T-shirts on one side of the aisle, while Nederlander/AEG supporters packed in sporting green T-shirts on the other.

“It kind of looks like a Christmas tree in here,” said Nederlander publicity assistant Samantha Marker as she gazed across the room.

One after another, workers at Live Nation — from a security guard and an usher to the chief operating officer — made the case for the world’s largest concert promoter to operate the Greek. Nederlander workers also made their case.

A panel created to evaluate the bids had recommended Live Nation over Nederlander, which has been running the Greek for nearly four decades. Nederlander supporters suggested the commissioners take more time to review the bids.

“There are many scoring anomalies," said Rena Wasserman, the Greek's longtime general manager under Nederlander. "There are many places where apples weren’t compared with apples to get a fair scoring.”

Christopher Laib, president of the Los Feliz Improvement Association — a homeowners' association for the area — said the stakes are high for neighbors of the venue. 

“What’s at stake is the unique nature of this amphitheater being in an exclusively residential neighborhood,” Laib said. “Everything that happens in that theater, there’s over 1,100 households that hear every lyric, every bass-line.”

Laib said the residents were more comfortable with the familiar Nederlander, adding there were no complaints from residents during the concert season this year. 

“We’ve worked for many years — decades — developing a collaborative relationship with Nederlander at the Greek,” he said. “They’ve become neighbors, they’ve become friends. We don’t know that about Live Nation.” 

Nederlander just teamed up with AEG to make its bid to renew the contract.

For his part, Live Nation Chief Operating Officer Joe Berchtold promised his company would bring its considerable clout to ensure the Greek had the best possible acts if his company were to win the bid.

“We obviously are going to bring our might as Live Nation, the number one concert promoter in the world, to assure we are bringing the largest array of the best shows into the Greek,” Berchtold said. 

Some residents and concertgoers raised concerns that booking those big acts might change the character of the Greek.

Berchtold tried to calm those fears. “At the end of the day, we are hyper-local," he said. "We figure out what the right program is in each community we operate in.”

The City of L.A. wants revenue from rent in the deal and capital improvements at the iconic Greek Theatre that's been a mainstay venue since it was built in 1929.

In their proposal, Nederlander offered to pay more rent. Live Nation offered to spend more on capital improvements.

Both teams want to uncover and restore the historic Greek columns that have been neglected over the years. Both want to replace the seating and improve the food and concessions offered, and both have plans to refurbish the plaza entrance to the theater seating. Nederlander wants to repair and refurbish the terraces and the roof. Live Nation wants to replace them.

The parks commissioners meet again on Oct. 23 to consider the proposals. Once they make a recommendation, the L.A. City Council gets to vote on the agreement.