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Beef Of The Week #423: Sharon Osbourne v Daddy Big Bucks

By | Published on Friday 28 September 2018

Ozzy Osbourne

When Ozzy Osbourne dropped an antitrust lawsuit against AEG earlier this month, the live firm was quick to claim victory. But this week Sharon Osbourne hit back with her own statement. Very much expressed in her inimitable style, you sense that the lawyers just gave up trying to stop her. Although lawyers should take note, the phrase “hubbildy, bubbuldy BULLSHIT” could be useful in many different situations.

This all stems from a long-running dispute that first bubbled to the surface last year when it emerged that AEG had started linking bookings at venues it operates in London and LA, namely The O2 and the Staples Center. It was alleged that artists who wanted to play the former were being pressured to also play the latter when in LA, as opposed to rival Los Angeles venue the Forum, which is run by MSG.

When criticised over this linking of venue bookings, AEG countered that MSG had started it by linking bookings at its flagship New York venue Madison Square Garden with the Forum. Live Nation then chipped in to moan about AEG’s venue linking practices, prompting AEG to question why it hadn’t likewise criticised MSG. Before noting that maybe it was because the MSG venues were allied with Live Nation’s Ticketmaster.

All that squabbling led to talk about venue operators being in breach of certain competition laws, which in turn led to Ozzy Osbourne filing an antitrust action against AEG in the US in March. The lawsuit related to a Live Nation promoted tour and efforts by AEG to link bookings at The O2 and the Staples Center.

Earlier this month, AEG dropped its venue linking policy, with boss Jay Marciano saying he was satisfied that artists were no longer “being pressured to play the Forum to gain access to the Garden”. After that, Osbourne dropped his lawsuit, with his attorney telling Variety that as it had been instigated in a bid “to remove this block booking requirement” there was now “no further need for litigation”.

Which was a decent excuse for bailing on the lawsuit. But AEG quickly put out a gloating statement, banging on about how it had emerged victorious from a battle with a bunch of bullies. It then repeated past claims that Osbourne’s whole legal action had been very much backed by its main rival Live Nation and veteran artist manager – and former Live Nation exec and now MSG business partner – Irving Azoff.

“We were fully prepared to see the case through to vindicate our policy, but now that Osbourne has decided to dismiss with prejudice, the case is over”, said the statement. “Our policy was an appropriate, lawful and effective competitive response to Irving Azoff’s pressure tactics seeking to force artists into the Forum. If those tactics resurface, we will redeploy our policy as needed”.

It went on to say that Osbourne’s lawsuit was “a transparent public relations ploy” that had been “instigated by Azoff and paid for by MSG and Live Nation”. It concluded by adding that the case was “hatched on the back of an artist who we believe had no idea what he was biting off”.

It’s always nice to have a little joke in a press statement, isn’t it? Osbourne is famous for biting the heads off things, you see? That’s what that was a joke about. I think it was a joke.

Anyway, Sharon Osbourne, who as Ozzy’s manager was really leading on this lawsuit, took exception to that whole statement. And since AEG started specifically naming Azoff in its response, she’s now working under the assumption that the statement was penned personally by AEG owner Philip Anschutz. Well, why not? Especially if you’ve gone to the trouble of thinking up a nickname for him.

“We know Mr Anschutz (aka ‘Daddy Big Bucks’) is living in his billionaire bubble”, she began. “But the fact is that Ozzy sued AEG for the right to perform at The O2 in London. We won the case and Ozzy’s show at The O2 went on sale on 5 Sep for a show next year (11 Feb 2019) – so in my world that means we won the case”.

I think if the case is voluntarily dropped before it gets to court, the best you can claim is a draw. I’m pretty sure that’s the rule. So if we’re not letting AEG claim victory, I don’t think we can give it to Ozzy either. But I guess Ozzy is playing the venue he wanted, and Sharon managed to plug a show three sentences into a statement about a legal dispute, so she’s certainly got some things going in her favour.

“Ozzy is playing The O2 without having to play the Staples Center, which is all that mattered to us. From the start of this dialogue in February, this has been a battle about respect for the artists and their personal preferences. It wasn’t then and isn’t now a battle between promoters, which is how this is being portrayed by the recent statement from AEG claiming this as a ‘victory'”.

She then turned to the specifics of the AEG statement, seeming angry at any suggestion that she or Ozzy had been a puppet in all this.

She went on: “To say that this ‘suit was instigated by Azoff and paid for by MSG and Live Nation’, and that ‘it was hatched on the back of an artist who we believe had no idea what he was biting off’, is untrue and disrespectful to Ozzy, myself and the entire team working on this tour”.

“Whatever differences you have with Irving Azoff”, she said, “don’t presume you know who instigated the lawsuit or you know anything about Ozzy Osbourne, because you obviously don’t know anything about Ozzy’s history or mine. So stop with your hubbildy, bubbuldy BULLSHIT and your little pissing contest with Live Nation and MSG”.

She then continued: “Regarding the allegations in the AEG statement that this ‘suit was a transparent public relations ploy’, if that was indeed the case, why then did AEG rush out a statement of victory? While we, throughout this process, until now have only made one statement around the initial filing”.

Hmm? Hmm? She’s got your there, huh? I mean, it’s tricky accusing the other side of seeking easy PR wins while also looking rather like you’re trying to score such a thing for yourself. And that’s definitely not what the Osbournes were out for anyway, Sharon would like you to know. There was no hubbildy, bubbuldy bullshit on their side, they were simply pursuing a serious legal action in a bid to protect artist rights.

“Ozzy’s preference was to perform at The Forum, a venue that has been a part of his music history for more than 46 years”, she said. “From the start, this was not a battle solely for Ozzy, [it was as much about the] other artists who were being forced to abide by these rules and regulations. Let’s not all forget why you’re here – the artists”.

But what about the ‘biting things’ gag? Does Sharon have something to say about that? Oh yes. In fact, she reckons it’s the only thing really worth commenting on.

“The only thing remotely interesting in your statement”, she concluded, “was your pitiful attempt at humour with your quote that Ozzy ‘had no idea what he was biting off’. If you’re interested, Ozzy and I have got something nice for you bite on… our assholes… see ya, loser!”

Now, I realise that “hubbildy, bubbuldy bullshit” might be too idiosyncratic a phrase to be included in every formal statement regarding a music industry legal dispute moving forward. But please, oh please, if only one thing comes out of all of this, please let it be that everyone starts signing off their legal statements “see ya, loser!”

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