According to The Hollywood Reporter, a judge on Wednesday rejected a bid by AEG to stop Ozzy Osbourne from pursuing an antitrust lawsuit. The BLACK SABBATH singer has alleged that AEG is using a practice called "block-booking" to force him to perform at the Staples Center in Los Angeles against his wishes.
Ozzy had tentatively agreed to perform at London's O2 Arena on February 11, 2019 as part of his "No More Tours 2" farewell run, but he claims that AEG added a provision stating that if Osbourne played an indoor arena within 25 miles of Los Angeles that was promoted by competitor Live Nation during the tour, he would have to play the AEG-owned Staples Center as well.
Osbourne's attorney Daniel Wall with Latham Watkins accused AEG of being a "monopolist" and trying to force Ozzy to play AEG's venue in Los Angeles in exchange for a London date at the arena.
"AEG argues that Ozzy was free to play anywhere he liked in Los Angeles as long as he did not use Live Nation as his promoter to do so," wrote U.S. District Court Judge Dale Fischer. "As Ozzy points out, this take on the allegations doesn't necessarily make AEG's actions less anticompetitive. But it is arguably different from what is pleaded in the complaint. … In any event, it is clear that the complaint alleges that Ozzy personally suffers damage in a fairly direct and non-speculative way by not being able to play in his preferred venues and that the damage stems from the kind of conduct that antitrust law is intended to prevent. AEG is alleged to be using market power in one market to foreclose competition in another through a tying arrangement. That tie allegedly harms Ozzy by constricting his choices on where to play his concerts regardless of whether Ozzy's or his concert promoter's name is on the contract with the venue."
Fischer also ruled that Osbourne has adequately alleged he's been coerced.
In its motion to dismiss the lawsuit from Osbourne, AEG said that Osbourne cannot claim anti-trust injury since the policy ties the promoter to the agreement, not the artist.
Wall submitted a rebuttal to the motion to dismiss, writing that AEG is misleading the court and is fully aware that the policy forces artists to play their venue in Los Angeles, sometimes against their will.
"Factually, AEG misrepresents its own practices with respect to the tying requirement it enforces," Wall's rebuttal read. "The formal venue hire agreement for the O2 referenced in the Staples Center Commitment unambiguously requires the promoter to ensure that the artist plays Staples when in Los Angeles."
AEG previously told Billboard in a statement that the company "has always worked hard to put artists first. At the same time, we must respond to the actions of those we compete with, specifically Live Nation and Madison Square Garden. Fighting for a level playing field is fair competition at its core."
Osbourne wants a judge to invalidate the provision in his contract that forces him to perform at Staples.
Variety reported that AEG's O2/Staples requirement came about in response to a challenge from MSG that found the company refusing to book acts into Madison Square Garden if they played at AEG's Staples Center in Los Angeles instead of the MSG-operated Forum. In response, AEG informed agents and promoters that acts who perform at The Forum instead of Staples will not be booked at London's O2 Arena.
Ozzy's final world tour is slated to last until 2020.