7.28.2007

MADONNA EYES $100M LIVE NATION MEGA-DEAL

By BRIAN GARRITY

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Shrewd buisnesswomen
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July 28, 2007 -- Madonna is pondering hanging up on Warner Music Group in favor of life without a traditional record contract.

With the Material Girl's existing pact with Warner Music Group's Warner Bros. Records winding down, her camp is considering an all-encompassing music deal with touring giant Live Nation that could be worth more than $100 million.

An agreement, if struck, would create an entity that would manage all Madonna-related businesses, including albums, touring, merchandise and sponsorships over a multi-year period. Live Nation would acquire an equity stake in the pop diva's overall business.

The joint venture company would then look to enter into an agreement with a label to handle distribution and marketing support of any Madonna album releases.

Madonna is currently in London working with A-list names like Justin Timberlake, Pharrell, and Timbaland on the follow-up to 2005's "Confessions on a Dancefloor." It's the last studio album due under her existing pact with Warner and is tentatively scheduled for release later this year.

Warner Bros. Records Chairman and CEO Tom Whalley, Madonna spokeswoman Liz Rosenberg and Live Nation all declined to comment.

Privately, insiders regard the Live Nation talk as the opening salvo in what figures to be an extended re-negotiation of her deal, which was last extended in 2000.

Sources say her camp has also been shopping to other labels the joint venture concept, which follows in the vein of deals inked by EMI with Korn and Robbie Williams.

"Confessions" - a commercial and critical comeback from 2003's disappointing "American Life," was Madonna's first album with the existing Warner management team of WMG CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr., U.S. Recorded Music CEO Lyor Cohen and Whalley.

It has sold over 1.6 million copies in the U.S. and spawned a successful world tour that ranked as the top grossing series ever for a female artist. The 60-date tour generated over $193 million in reported revenues.

WMG's stock hit a new 52-week low Friday, slidding 4.8 percent, or 65 cents, to $12.76. Live Nation closed down 3.4 percent, or 71 cents, Friday to $20.14.

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