The Work

January 6, 2010 4:32 PM

Antitrust Mania: Kraft Is Up and Ticketmaster Is Down?

Posted by Zach Lowe

Just before the holidays, we spoke to two sources close to the Ticketmaster Entertainment-Live Nation Inc. deal, and both of them told us they were very confident the U.S. Department of Justice would follow the United Kingdom's lead and approve the merger without major concessions. 

That appears to be less certain today, and that could mean some sleepless nights for the lawyers at Latham & Watkins (handling antitrust work in the U.S. for Live Nation) and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher (doing the same for Ticketmaster). Reuters, citing anonymous sources, is reporting this afternoon that the Justice Department is undecided about the deal and has a team of litigators ready to go to court to oppose it. The Reuters reports contradicts an earlier story on which reported that DOJ was ready to let the deal go through. 

Several consumer groups in the U.S. have lined up against the deal (using the umbrella name, saying it will hurt consumers by allowing one company to both promote events and sell tickets to those same events, according to Reuters.

As we reported in December, the U.K.'s Competition Commission approved the merger after Live Nation assured regulators it would honor agreements with European ticket sellers (especially the German company CTS Eventim, Ticketmaster's largest competitor in Europe) under which those companies have the right to sell tickets to Live Nation events. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer led the Live Nation antitrust effort in the U.K.

Some other major antitrust news breaking this afternoon:

• The European Commission, the European Union's top regulator, gave its preliminary approval to Kraft's proposed $16.8 billion takeover of Cadbury, according to Reuters. The commission is out ahead of Cadbury in that regard; the British chocolatier, repped by Slaughter and May, has rejected Kraft's bid and forced the U.S. food giant to move to a hostile takeover. 

The commission said Wednesday it would approve a Kraft takeover as long as Kraft agreed to sell its Polish and Romanian chocolate confectionary businesses, Reuters says. Otherwise, the commission decided that Kraft's current presence in the U.K. and Europe in general is not deep enough to warrant major antitrust concerns, Reuters says.

• Finally, it will be the Department of Justice, not the Federal Trade Commission, that will decide the U.S. antitrust fate of Comcast's proposed $30 billion joint venture with NBC Universal, according to Reuters. The union of a cable operator and a content-generating company is sure to provoke some strong protest. 

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