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COA sides with Live Nation in naming dispute

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the Murat Temple Association’s claim that Live Nation Worldwide violated terms of its lease agreement.

MTA claims that Live Nation, which leases the MTA’s Indianapolis 1909 Murat Theatre Building and 1922 Mosque Building, breached its contract when it sold naming rights for those spaces to Old National Bank. But according to terms of the lease, Live Nation is entitled to the rights “enjoyed by the owner of the building,” and therefore is entitled to publicly rename the premises, the appeals court held.

The dispute began in January 2010 when MTA learned that Live Nation was planning to sell naming rights to part or all of the Shrine Center. On January 28, 2010, MTA delivered a letter to Live Nation stating that MTA’s approval was required for any name change of the leased premises.

On March 16, 2010, Live Nation announced that it had entered into a naming rights agreement with Old National. On that same day, MTA sent a letter to Live Nation and Old National objecting to any name change to the leased premises and asserting that Live Nation lacked the right to rename the leased premises. Nevertheless, Live Nation placed a marquee on the Mosque Building bearing the name “Old National Centre.”

Subsequently, MTA filed a complaint against Live Nation and Old National. MTA accused Live Nation of breach of contract and conversion. MTA accused Old National of conversion, tortious interference with a contractual relationship, and tortious interference with a business relationship.

MTA maintains that by placing a new marquee on the building bearing the name “Old National Centre” and by using the name “Old National Centre” in advertising, Live Nation has effectively and inappropriately renamed the entire Shrine Center, rather than just the leased premises. The appeals court held that according to Article XII of the lease, Live Nation was authorized to place “signs and advertising matter” “upon any part of the leased premises.” The public may perceive the Shrine Center differently due to the installation of the marquee and Live Nation’s use of the Old National Centre name in advertising, but regardless of the public’s perception, Live Nation has not exceeded the scope of its rights under the lease, the appeals court held.

The appeals court stated that in any conversion action, criminal intent is an essential element that must be proven. In Murat Temple Association, Inc. v. Live Nation Worldwide, et al., No. 49A02-1008-PL-952, the MTA alleged that Live Nation and Old National both knew that MTA had objected to their negotiations and had told them that Live Nation had no authority to sell naming rights for the Shrine Center in whole or in part. MTA further alleged that despite that knowledge of MTA’s objection, Live Nation and Old National intentionally and knowingly executed a naming rights agreement, thereby exerting unauthorized control over MTA’s right to publicly name the Shrine Center. However, because the lease authorizes Live Nation to rename the leased premises, MTA’s conversion claim fails, because neither Live Nation nor Old National exerted unauthorized control over MTA’s property, the appeals court held.

The appeals court stated that Section 1.01 of the lease agreement provides a broad grant of authority to Live Nation, including naming rights, and the parties negotiated only one limitation on naming rights, in Section 3.02, which states that Live Nation must retain the phrase “Murat Theatre” in the name of the 1909 Theatre Building. But that clause applies only to “theatre business within the leased premises,” not the entire leased premises.

“Presumably, if MTA had intended to further restrict Live Nation’s authority to rename all or part of the Leased Premises, the parties would have added additional limitations,” the COA wrote in its opinion.
 

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