Live Nation president/CEO Michael Rapino is once again dipping into his personal bank account to convey his financial support and commitment to the concert promotion company he’s been building since 2005. On Friday (March 31), he purchased approximately $1 million worth of company stock “in order to maintain his strong level of stock ownership in the Company,” according to a recent Securities and Exchange Commission filing.
The purchase is a bit confusing since it was part of a tax withholding effort and was technically listed as a sale of shares by Rapino rather than an acquisition. But just as he did in March 2020, Rapino spent approximately $1 million of his own money to increase the number of Live Nation shares he held in his portfolio.
Rapino made the March 2020 purchase just as the company’s share price, and most of the stock market, was being battered by fears of a deep recession due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, the company was trading at $38.60 per share, down nearly 50% from weeks earlier when the stock was trading at approximately $74 per share.
Today, that $1 million Rapino invested in the company in 2020 is worth $1.8 million, with the Live Nation stock hovering around $68 to $70 per share — better than it was during the early days of the pandemic, but lower than shareholders want considering that the company enjoyed record revenue in 2022 and is poised for a big 2023 with superstar artists like Beyoncé, Drake and Madonna hitting the road. Rapino’s latest purchase is a way to shore up confidence in the company as it heads into another promising year.
Dragging the company’s share price down are concerns about debt and regulatory pressure from Washington, D.C. Live Nation carried $3.7 billion in debt prior to the pandemic and now shows a debt level of $6 billion. With nearly $5.1 billion of that debt set at a fixed interest rate, the company will easily be able to service its interest payments, but it’s unlikely to raise additional capital for acquisitions in the short term due to federal monetary shifts toward higher interest rates. On the regulatory front, the company is facing both long-term scrutiny over its 2010 merger with Ticketmaster and more recent attention over its handling of the 2022 ticket sale for Taylor Swift‘s Eras Tour.
Friday’s purchase was structured differently than the March 2020 purchase, which saw Rapino buy the $1 million in company shares off the open market. Instead, it was part of a share surrender by Rapino and other executives over taxes due on vested restricted stock awards. As part of the company’s equity incentive plan, Rapino was to surrender 22,204 shares of restricted stock back to the company to cover withholding taxes but opted to pay $1 million out of his own pocket toward taxes due on his 2022 stock award, “hereby retaining ownership of 14,285 shares of common stock of the Company that would have otherwise been surrendered to the Company to pay taxes,” according to the SEC filing.
Rapino currently holds 5.2 million shares of Live Nation, consisting of 3.5 million shares of common stock, options to purchase an additional 600,000 shares and a performance share award targeted at 1.1 million shares of common stock.