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Bloomberg News reported that the US Department of Justice may seek to break up Live Nation

Bloomberg News reported that the US Department of Justice may seek to break up Live Nation

(Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department and a group of states will sue Live Nation Entertainment, potentially seeking a spinoff, Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday, marking the next step in the antitrust campaign against the owner of Ticketmaster.

Sources previously told Reuters that the Justice Department was investigating Ticketmaster’s dominance in concert ticket sales. Concert fans and politicians have called for years to reconsider the merger between Live Nation and Ticketmaster in 2010, especially after the failed sale of tickets for Taylor Swift’s concert tour.

Bloomberg said the lawsuit is expected to be filed in the Southern District of New York on Thursday.

The legal action highlights the aggressive approach taken by President Joe Biden’s antitrust enforcers as they seek to create more competition in a wide range of industries, from Big Tech to health care to grocery stores. It also shows the power and fury of concertgoers and Swifties, which is the nickname of Swift’s fans.

Live Nation came under fire in 2022 after Ticketmaster mishandled ticket sales for Swift’s 2023 tour. Ticketmaster was overwhelmed by the matter, canceling some sales plans and sending potential buyers into online queues for up to eight hours.

Some Swifties said they were repeatedly dropped by Ticketmaster while they waited to purchase. The service complained that it was a target for bots and scalpers, but partygoers also complained about high prices and poor service.

US Senators in January 2023, at a hearing held after the ticket sales fiasco, criticized Live Nation’s lack of transparency and inability to prevent ticket purchases by bots.

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In the lawsuit to be filed Thursday, the Justice Department’s options range from asking the company to stop illegal behavior, a common request, to asking the court to break it up, which is rare.

The lawsuit comes after the Justice Department in 2010 approved Ticketmaster’s controversial merger with Live Nation, with terms intended to prevent the combined company from harming competition.

In 2020, the court extended most of its oversight of the merger through 2025 because, the department said, Ticketmaster retaliated against stadiums and arenas that chose to use other ticket companies.

Live Nation did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It has said in the past that it was confident its business practices were legal, and that the investigation was prompted by complaints from competitors, including resellers.

Live Nation shares fell 7% in after-hours trading.

The Ministry of Justice did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

(Reporting by Niket Nishant in Bengaluru and Peter Henderson in Oakland, California; Additional reporting by Chris Sanders in Washington; Editing by Alan Barona, Chris Rees and Tom Hogue)