Jared Smith is stepping down as global chairman of Ticketmaster at the end of the year, a move that should let the company’s next leadership team shape how the sports and entertainment giant emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Smith, 42, has been at the company for more than 17 years, helping solidify its position as a dominant force in ticketing. He and Live Nation Entertainment CEO Michael Rapino have had ongoing discussions over the past few years regarding a succession plan, and Smith said that COVID-19, which disrupted live events around the world, provided the right opportunity to make that move.
“The company deserves to have the person who’s going to be here long-term making the hard decisions right now of what it should look like,” Smith said in an interview.
The succession plan is already in effect. In August, Ticketmaster promoted Smith from president to global chairman and named Mark Yovich, who was running its international business, its new global president. Amy Howe, who was president of North America, is the new COO, part of a growing effort to unify Live Nation’s North American and international divisions. Smith will stay on through the end of the year to help with the transition.
Live Nation Entertainment, the result of a 2010 merger between Ticketmaster and Live Nation, performs a number of functions across sports, entertainment, representation and ticketing. The company provides software for venues and franchises around the world, hosts primary and secondary ticket marketplaces, owns and operates venues, and promotes tours. Ticketmaster sells more than 500 million tickets in a normal year, more than any other platform.
Smith started at Ticketmaster in 2003 with an entry-level sales job in Birmingham, Alabama, and eventually worked his way up to the company’s top job. He became COO in 2010 following the Live Nation merger, and was named president of its all-important North America business three years later. He’s also currently an executive vice president of Live Nation.
Live Nation’s annual revenue nearly doubled to $11.54 billion in the six years after Smith took over as Ticketmaster’s North America head. In that period of growth, during which he was eventually named global president, he worked to diversify Ticketmaster’s business—revenue from sources other than primary ticketing fees grew to 30% from 15% under his leadership.
Things changed dramatically in March with the COVID-19 pandemic. The company, which was poised for what Smith called a “monster year,” had to halt nearly its entire business, then put it in reverse as acts cancelled, tours were postponed and sports seasons were disrupted. Amid Live Nation’s right-sizing of the business, which included multiple rounds of furloughs and lay-offs, Rapino and Smith began discussing the company’s long-term leadership plan.
“It was a very healthy back and forth,” Smith said. “We decided that this might be the right moment to put that succession plan in place, and let those guys figure out how they want to run the company moving forward.”
Though live entertainment is one of the industries most affected by the pandemic, there’s reason for optimism at Live Nation. The vast majority of shows that didn’t happen this year have been postponed instead of cancelled, and the company said in August that 86% of fans have opted to keep tickets for rescheduled shows, as opposed to seeking refunds.
Smith said he hasn’t yet thought about what’s next. One advantage, he said, is that the diverse nature of Ticketmaster’s business—as a sports and entertainment company, a software provider and a marketplace—likely widens his options.
“I owe my entire career to sports and entertainment,” he said. “I love the business, the people, the dynamic relationship between the consumer and the product. As I evaluate opportunities, whether it’s within or outside the live event industry, the most important thing to me is finding an opportunity with great growth potential that leverages my experience of building innovative products, high performing teams and operating at real scale.”