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Stubhub, Ticketmaster war escalates with new lawsuit

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Posted at 8:56 PM, Mar 30, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-30 20:56:37-04

EBay Inc.'s StubHub escalated a long-running fight with Ticketmaster Entertainment Inc. by suing over the Golden State Warriors season ticket policy that it says seeks to sideline resellers.

The lawsuit is the latest battle in a lengthy war between StubHub, the largest ticket reseller in the U.S., and Ticketmaster, the primary ticket seller for many professional sports teams and concerts. The companies have fought in court and statehouses for almost a decade, lobbying lawmakers over bills that could alter the price restrictions on ticket resales.

Purchased by EBay in February 2007 for $310 million, StubHub claims Ticketmaster and the Golden Warriors violated U.S. antitrust and California law by canceling or threatening to cancel season tickets for the Oakland, Calif.-based professional basketball team if they are resold anywhere other than Ticketmaster.

"If you are a Warriors fan and you want season tickets, you have one choice: buy them through Ticketmaster," StubHub said in its complaint, filed Sunday in San Francisco state court.

The company said Ticketmaster may seek to replicate the policy "with other teams and entertainment venues throughout the U.S.," forcing StubHub and others out of business.

Melissa Zukerman, a spokeswoman for Live Nation, owner of Ticketmaster, declined to comment. Raymond Ridder, a spokesman for the Warriors, declined to immediately comment.

In 2007, Ticketmaster sued EBay claiming StubHub interfered with its exclusive rights to sell tickets for at least 18 concert venues. StubHub offered seats for sale on its website at venues that can only sell tickets through Ticketmaster, according to the complaint in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Ticketmaster struck a 2010 settlement with U.S. regulators over complaints that it steered customers to more expensive tickets for a Bruce Springsteen concert on its resale site. The company won Justice Department approval that year to merge with concert promoter Live Nation Entertainment Inc. after promising to license ticketing software to a rival.

StubHub's new lawsuit said Ticketmaster also delays delivery of tickets for weeks or even months until only a few days before a game to prevent resale on competing exchanges.

The number of listings for Warriors tickets on StubHub have fallen by about 80 percent in the last year as a result of efforts to limit resales, it said.

"We are concerned that this is going to be something that we'll be seeing more and more of," StubHub General Counsel Michelle Fang said Monday in a telephone interview. Fang said the company's lawsuit was motivated by an outcry from Warriors fans and ticket holders, and was filed only after earlier attempts to persuade the team to change its policy failed.

"Given that they haven't been able to win when we've competed on a level playing field, they're trying to compete unfairly," Fang said.

Bloomberg News reporter Mason Levinson contributed to this report.