Utah AG isn't joining Live Nation-Ticketmaster lawsuit, but DOJ alleges Utahns were impacted

Posted at 10:53 AM, May 23, 2024

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes has opted not to join a lawsuit filed against Live Nation-Ticketmaster leveled by the U.S. Department of Justice and 30 other states.

But the lawsuit alleges Utahns were directly impacted by anti-competitive practices.

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced a lawsuit against Live Nation-Ticketmaster, accusing the concert ticket seller of monopolization and other practices that hurt consumers and thwarted competition in markets across the nation. A bipartisan group of attorneys general joined the lawsuit including the neighboring states of Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado and Nevada.

The Utah Attorney General's Office did not immediately have a comment Thursday to FOX 13 News on why it opted not to participate in the multi-state litigation.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in New York, includes Utahns as an example of consumers impacted by anti-competitive practices reaching back to SmithsTix, the local ticket seller previously owned by the Smith's grocery store chain.

"In 2017, Live Nation acquired United Concerts, a promoter and venue owner in Utah, whose venues included the most popular large amphitheater in the state. Live Nation acquired United Concerts in part to eliminate a potential competitive promotions threat and to starve a competing primary ticketer of customers," the lawsuit alleges.

"Before Live Nation bought United Concerts, many venues in Utah, including United Concerts’ venues, used a regional ticketing company called SmithsTix. Internally, Live Nation noted that SmithsTix had taken Ticketmaster’s 'last client in Utah' and left a 'barren landscape' for Ticketmaster there. Live Nation chose not to acquire SmithsTix directly because doing so would 'require us to go to the DOJ [to notify them as required under the 2010 consent decree that it planned to acquire a primary ticketing company] and that’s something we wouldn’t necessarily want to do,'" it further alleged.

"Instead, Live Nation went bigger while sidestepping the notification requirements of the consent decree: it acquired United Concerts and its venues, and then converted those venues to Ticketmaster. Left 'with only a few small clients,' SmithsTix ultimately went out of business."

In a statement to news outlets ahead of the lawsuit being filed, Live Nation insisted the litigation would not solve "issues fans care about relating to ticket prices, service fees, and access to in-demand shows."

"Calling Ticketmaster a monopoly may be a PR win for the DOJ in the short term, but it will lose in court because it ignores the basic economics of live entertainment, such as the fact that the bulk of service fees go to venues, and that competition has steadily eroded Ticketmaster’s market share and profit margin," the statement said.

Cory Talbot, an attorney who specializes in anti-trust litigation with the firm Holland & Hart and is not connected to this litigation, said it remains to be seen how much of a case the government has. He also said there were many reasons why Reyes' office opted not to jump in when neighboring states did.

"It could be that the venues in Utah were more limited than other jurisdictions and the Utah Attorney General just chose to sit this one out and wait and see what would happen. It takes a lot of resources for a state to be involved in a case like this," Talbot told FOX 13 News. "At the same time, the attorney general may feel like he disagreed with the claims that are being made in the lawsuit and didn’t see a reason to pursue it."