BUSINESS UPDATES: Ticketmaster Enters 50th State–Hawaii & Diller Steps Down From Vivendi (Click on More to view all articles)

Ticketmaster is now in all 50 states with the acquisition of Hawaiian ticketing company Ticket Plus Inc and its subsidiary, Ticket Plus-Hawaii. Among the venues Ticket Plus services is the Blaisdell Center and the University of Hawaii athletics.

As part of the Hawaii acquisition and anticipated expansion, Ticketmaster will:

— Maintain and operate a vast ticket outlet network and comprehensive call center dedicated to serving the ticketing needs of visitors and residents of Hawaii.

— Maintain a dedicated telesales number to service Hawaii 808.526.4400 or toll free 877.750.4400.

— Offer Hawaii live event tickets on the World Wide Web through ( www.ticketmaster.com ).

In conjunction with the closing, Manuel Sanchez, former president and CEO of Ticket Plus, Inc. becomes the general manager of Ticketmaster's Hawaii operations. Sanchez told CelebrityAccess "Becoming part of the world's leading ticketing company will add a new level of stability and reliability to our ticketing offerings and provide our clients and consumers throughout Hawaii with more comprehensive and convenient access to live entertainment tickets."

Ticketmaster's domestic ticketing operation now spans all 50 states. Ticketmaster's European operations include England, Scotland, Wales, The Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, The Netherlands, Norway and Denmark.

Diller Steps Down From Vivendi Universal

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Barry Diller resigned as co-chief executive of Vivendi Universal Entertainment on Wednesday, saying it was appropriate for him to step down while cash-strapped Vivendi Universal considers bids for the entertainment assets.

Diller was appointed interim CEO of Vivendi Universal's U.S.-based entertainment assets, which include Universal Studios and Universal's theme parks, last year while the Paris-based conglomerate concentrated on repaying a massive debt racked up from an acquisition spree by previous management.

Former oilman Marvin Davis has offered $20 billion for VUE, plus Universal Music Group. Vivendi also is holding talks with Viacom, MGM and other potential buyers of all or parts of its entertainment businesses.

Diller served as co-CEO with Vivendi Universal chairman Jean-Rene Fourtou.

"My executive role was never intended to be permanent," Diller said in a statement Wednesday. "Now that Vivendi Universal has begun a formal process in reviewing options for its entertainment assets, it is appropriate to step aside from any direct management responsibility."

Diller, 61, remains chief executive officer of USA Interactive, which operates the Home Shopping Network, Ticketmaster, Match.com and Expedia, among other companies.

Diller will continue to play a critical role in the future of Vivendi's entertainment arm. He personally owns 1.5 percent of VUE; USA Interactive holds a 5.4 percent stake and preferred stock in VUE.

Diller has served as head of Paramount and Twentieth Century Fox, where he helped launch the Fox Television network. While at Fox, he was instrumental in creating such shows as "Married with Children" and "The Simpsons."

He started his entertainment career at ABC, where he is credited with creating the "movie of the week" concept.

In a recent interview, Diller told The Associated Press he would be interested in an opportunity to bid for some of Vivendi's entertainment assets as long as it did not require him to serve as chief executive. Diller said his top interest is serving as head of USA Interactive.

"I think most people felt he probably couldn't run two public companies," said Richard Read, an analyst who follows USA Interactive for Credit Lyonnais Securities. "This reiterates his commitment to USA Interactive, which is a good thing."

Shares of USA Interactive fell $2.28, or 8.6 percent, to $24.21 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange, where Vivendi's U.S. shares rose 29 cents to $15.09.

Vivendi barely staved off bankruptcy last year as it struggled to cope with billions of debt, a collapsing share price, boardroom infighting and no clear strategy.

Through a fire sale of assets, Vivendi was able to cut its debt to 12.3 billion euros (about $13 billion) as of Dec. 31, compared with net debt of of 37.1 billion euros a year earlier.

The sale of entertainment assets is part of new CEO Jean-Rene Fourtou's plan to shed another 7 billion euros ($7.4 billion) in assets over the course of this year to return Vivendi to solid footing.

Vivendi and former CEO Jean-Marie Messier are the subjects of an investigation by French market regulators and Paris magistrates. In the United States, Vivendi is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, and Messier is a defendant in more than a dozen individual lawsuits that allege, among other things, that he hid the true extent of company cash problems.

Accord Will Keep CEO Karmazin at Viacom

NEW YORK (AP) — Viacom Inc. announced a new contract with president and chief operating officer Mel Karmazin on Thursday that will keep him at the media giant for three more years.

The company, which owns CBS, Showtime and numerous other media assets, also announced a new contract with chairman and chief executive Sumner M. Redstone.

Viacom said both contracts are effective May 5. Karmazin's agreement has a three-year term ending May 5, 2006.

Questions about Karmazin's future at the company, amid reports of increased tensions between him and Redstone, had weighed on the stock in recent months. Viacom's board was eager to keep Karmazin, whose contract was set to expire at the end of the year, aboard.

Many on Wall Street consider Karmazin to be key to the success of Viacom, which merged with CBS in 2000. Shares in Viacom, which also owns VH1, UPN, Simon & Schuster and other properties, were up 16 cents to $39.06 each in late morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Karmazin will receive a base salary of $1 million per year, according to documents Viacom filed Thursday with the Securities and Exchange Commission. He will receive a bonus expected to be $6.65 million this year with a bonus for each subsequent year of at least 10 percent more than for the preceding year.

Redstone will receive the same base salary, with a bonus also expected to be $6.65 million. For each calendar year thereafter, his bonus will at least equal that of Karmazin.

Both will receive deferred compensation this year of $2.99 million, with increases throughout the length of the contract. Both will also receive no less than $5 million of term life insurance.

In a statement Thursday, Redstone warmly praised Karmazin.

"I am very pleased that Viacom will continue to benefit from Mel's leadership and talent. The CBS merger brought many great assets together under the Viacom name, and Mel has done a masterful job of integrating those businesses and operating them at peak performance. I look forward to continuing our successful partnership and taking Viacom to new heights in the years to come."

Karmazin returned the favor in the company news release, calling Redstone a great visionary.

New York-based Viacom had 2002 profits of $726 million on $24.6 billion in revenues, reversing a $224 million loss in 2001.

Last month, executives predicted they would deliver mid-single digit revenue growth and mid-teen growth in earnings per share in 2003. The forecast reflects the anticipated costs of war coverage, and the effects a conflict might have on advertising revenues.

Disney Trims Earnings Estimate

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A sluggish retail environment and continuing declines in tourism led The Walt Disney Co. on Wednesday to trim earnings estimates for 2003.

Earlier, Disney had said revenue would grow between 25 percent and 30 percent for the full year. However, Disney chief financial officer Thomas Staggs said weakness in the economy would result in "more moderate growth" for this year. He did not offer specifics.

Analysts have previously said Disney may have overestimated its earnings outlook, given economic conditions.

Staggs, speaking to Disney shareholders at the company's annual meeting in Denver, said war jitters have hurt attendance at Walt Disney World in Florida, although attendance has improved at the Disneyland Resort in California.

Disney's Florida resort is more dependent on air travel while Disneyland draws more of a local crowd.

Staggs also said that a decline in retail sales hurt the company's Disney Stores. Still, he remained confident about the momentum of the company's merchandise licensing business.

At the meeting, shareholders elected a 13-member board of directors, which is smaller than Disney's previous 17-member board.

The company has enacted several corporate governance reforms over the past year, including strengthening the power of independent directors and appointing former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell as a presiding director.

Mitchell will hold at least two meetings of the board each year without company management present.

Shares in Disney rose 39 cents, more than 2 percent, to close at $16.97 each on the New York Stock Exchange.

Turner May Stay on AOL Time Warner Board

NEW YORK (AP) — Ted Turner said Tuesday he will consider remaining on AOL Time Warner Inc.'s board after he leaves as vice chairman in May.

The board is scheduled to meet Thursday, and Turner said he will talk to other board members before making any final decision.

"I don't want to leave them in a lurch, so maybe I'll stay for a while," Turner said at a breakfast hosted by Syracuse University's Newhouse School.

Turner, who founded CNN and Turner Broadcasting, announced in January that he would officially leave the company in May. Turner, AOL Time Warner's largest individual shareholder, has repeatedly expressed dissatisfaction with the 2001 merger of America Online and Time Warner, and frustration over his own diminished role at the company.

AOL Time Warner spokeswoman Tricia Primrose declined to discuss Thursday's meeting specifically but said AOL Time Warner chief executive and incoming chairman Dick Parsons "has been talking to Ted in hopes that he will remain on the board."

Also Tuesday, Turner was skeptical about the prospects for a turnaround at America Online. AOL Time Warner's stock has plunged more than 70 percent from the high it reached following the announcement of merger plans, and many shareholders blame America Online's softening business and other problems, including a government investigation into its accounting practices.

Although Turner stopped short of saying the America Online division should be sold, he expressed doubts that the business could be revived under Time Warner's watch. He said new media and technology businesses require companies that can move quickly, a culture that many older media companies lack.

"I feel like there is a business model for AOL to grow," he said. But "I wonder if being a part of Time Warner is the best way for that to occur."

Turner also talked about the $70 million investment in "Gods and Generals," the Civil War epic that has flopped at the box office, and the toll the AOL Time Warner stock meltdown has taken on his personal fortune.

"I thought this movie needed to be made and, at the time, I was worth $7 billion," Turner said. "I would have never taken on that big a project on my current financial base."

In trading Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange, shares of AOL Time Warner fell 19 cents to close at $11.54.

XM Satellite Radio, SIRIUS and Sound Exchange Reach Music Licensing Agreement

XM Satellite Radio, SIRIUS and SoundExchange, have agreed on royalty rates and terms for the public performance of copyrighted sound recordings by the satellite digital radio services. The agreement covers the period through December 31, 2006. Terms of the agreement are confidential.

"The royalties paid under this agreement will be an important new revenue stream for the 3,000 labels and thousands of artists we represent. The agreement once again compensates artists and copyright owners for public performances of their creative works," said John L. Simson, executive director, SoundExchange.

SIRIUS vice president, Business Affairs, Doug Kaplan and XM Senior vice president, Regulatory, Lon Levin commented, "We're pleased to have reached an amicable agreement that compensates performers and record labels. We look forward to a long and productive relationship with artists and the recording industry."

"We are delighted to have reached an agreement that compensates creators and allows XM and SIRIUS to grow while avoiding a costly arbitration. We expect this agreement to be the start of a mutually beneficial relationship with these exciting new services for many years to come," said Steven Marks, senior vice president, Business and Legal Affairs at RIAA.

"Musicians make huge investments of money, soul, talent and heart when they record their music," said Thomas F. Lee, president of the American Federation of Musicians. "This agreement will ensure that they benefit from the exciting opportunities offered by XM and SIRIUS."

"We are pleased to reach a settlement that will provide an opportunity for these new services to develop while ensuring that artists are compensated," said AFTRA's Director of Sound Recordings, Ann Chaitovitz. "This settlement shows that the music industry is changing, not dying, and that there will be important new income streams for artists and labels.

Findings Will Be Posted On Fan Web Site

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Kings for the last month have allowed a season ticket holder to review their books on behalf of the team's fans.

Money manager Philip Propper, 42, said the access is part of a movement on behalf of sports teams who are being pushed to come clean with the fans they charge $8.50 for a beer and $4,300 for season tickets.

"People are more sophisticated now, and there's too much competition for the entertainment dollar," Propper told the Los Angeles Times in Monday's editions. "You cannot ask for the fans to invest both their emotions and their cash without keeping them in the loop as to what's happening with the team."

Propper's access is highly unusual for the Anschutz Entertainment Group, which traditionally closely guards details of its private ownership of the Kings and Staples Center. The access also is believed to be unprecedented for a professional sports franchise in any league.

Major League Baseball recently released financial summaries showing that the majority of its teams were losing money. The league, however, didn't allow outsiders to inspect individual franchise books, which fueled skepticism about the numbers. Critics believe the figures may have been rigged to justify contraction and hardball labor negotiations.

The NHL faces its own labor showdown next year and two of its teams have allowed journalists to view and report on their balance sheets. Only the Kings, however, have agreed to let a fan take a look and issue his own findings, NHL officials said.

Fans of the Kings, who have never won a Stanley Cup championship, are eagerly awaiting Propper's findings, which will be posted in about two weeks on a popular fan Internet site: http://www.letsgokings.com

"A lot of people think it's an excellent PR move by the Kings," said Mike Zampelli, a former Long Beach record store owner who runs the fan Web site. "A lot of people are waiting for Phil's report. Not only is he going to look at the numbers and see if they're losing money, he's going to tell why he thinks they're losing money."

Fans have gained an interest in the team's finances while watching the team struggle and lose favorite players, such as defenseman Rob Blake, who was traded to keep a lid on salaries.

Forbes Magazine estimated last year that the Kings made $7 million a year, but Tim Leiweke, president of Anschutz Entertainment, denied that estimate and opened up cash-flow statements to the Times.

Those showed that the company lost more than $103 million since Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz bought the team in 1995. The statements indicated the Kings were on track to lose another $10 million this year.

Propper wrote Leiweke in January saying he had doubts about the Kings' balance sheet and offered to study it.

Leiweke surprised Propper and agreed.

"I thought it was a unique way of being accountable, and a reasonable request," Leiweke said.

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