The CEO of Live Nation, one of the organizers of last week’s deadly Astroworld music festival, could potentially snag a nine-figure golden parachute even if the fallout costs him his job.
According to public filings, chief executive Michael Rapino’s exit package was worth $168 million as of the end of last year, including accelerated stock option awards, medical benefits, and more than $40 million in severance.
That number would likely now be considerably higher, as Live Nation’s stock is trading close to an all-time high, despite a modest downturn following the festival.
Rapino stood to receive the full balance of his exit package if he quit for “good reason” or was fired “without cause,” the filings said. Those terms seemingly leave some room for interpretation. “Cause” would include ”Mr. Rapino’s willful and continued failure to perform his material duties” or willful misconduct that caused “material and demonstrable injury, monetarily or otherwise,” to Live Nation.
There is currently no indication that Rapino will quit or be forced out, though investigations into the event are still unfolding.
Rapino and Live Nation did not respond to requests for comment. [Disclosure: Barry Diller, the chairman of IAC, which owns The Daily Beast, served as Live Nation’s chairman until 2010.]
In a statement posted to his Twitter account on Monday, Rapino said, “Many families are dealing with the unimaginable right now and my heart goes out to them and the entire Astroworld community. We are dedicated to doing everything we can to get the families and fans the answers and support they deserve.”
More than a dozen lawsuits have already rained down on Astroworld’s organizers, including Live Nation, and the musical artist Travis Scott, who continued performing for almost 40 minutes after the mayhem began. He also reportedly partied at Dave & Buster’s even after the show had ended.
A source told TMZ that Scott learned of the casualties during the after-party, at which point he left. Previously, he released a statement saying he was “absolutely devastated by what took place” at Astroworld and pledged to pay for the victims’ funeral costs.
In the days since the festival, other allegations have piled up: that Scott has been known to egg on crowds, and that he encouraged Astroworld attendees to make the “ground shake” even after acknowledging an ambulance in the crowd.
Organizers have also been accused of hiring security guards that were inexperienced and undertrained.
“If you look at my resume, I only have hospitality and retail experience,” one of the event’s security guards—hired by a company called Contemporary Services Corporation— told Rolling Stone. “It felt like they just needed bodies, like they were hiring anyone who passed a background test.”
If blowback ultimately costs Rapino his job, he could join a roster of CEOs who received big payouts even while embroiled in scandal or controversy.
Beginning in 2014, shortly after Mary Barra took over as chief executive of General Motors, the company was forced to recall millions of cars over a faulty ignition switch that ultimately caused more than 100 deaths. (Barra has said she was unaware of the safety issue when she took over the role.)
In 2015, the company paid $900 million to the government as part of a non-prosecution agreement, in which it admitted that it had misled consumers and regulators.
No matter—between 2014 and 2016, Barra’s total pay eclipsed $67 million, filings show.
Another transportation exec, former Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, was ousted in late 2019 over two plane crashes involving its 737 MAX airliner. He left with upwards of $60 million in stock and pension awards.
Perhaps most famously, WeWork founder Adam Neumann pocketed hundreds of millions of dollars as part of an agreement that let the company move on without him in 2019. That included $200 million in cash, The Wall Street Journal reported.
As for Rapino, at the onset of the pandemic he received wide acclaim after Live Nation announced that he was “voluntarily forgoing 100% of his salary” for an unspecified amount of time. A number of media outlets took that to mean the remainder of 2020.
That wasn’t the case—and it seems the company did not proactively correct the misunderstanding.
According to filings, the board reinstated half of Rapino’s salary in June 2021, then upped it to 60 percent three months later, even as the company reportedly continued to furlough workers.
Variety first reported on the mix-up, lamenting that it too had given Rapino undue “praise.”
Either way, as of this April, Rapino’s salary had returned to normal.