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Answer to Murat's naming-rights fight likely to be found in lease

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Live Nation's legal right to rename the Murat Shrine Center might boil down to nothing more than whether the company's lease with the Shriners gives it the right to put up signs.

The Murat Temple Association, a Shriners affiliate that owns the iconic building at 502 N. New Jersey St. in Indianapolis, is suing Live Nation and Old National Bank over a naming-rights deal announced March 16.

In its suit, filed March 26 in Marion County Circuit Court, the association argues that its lease with Live Nation does not include the right to rename the Murat Shrine Center. The lease, which dates back to 1995, covers the parts of the complex used as an an entertainment venue, including the Murat Theatre and and the Mosque Building, which houses the Egyptian Room.

In announcing its naming-rights deal with Evansville-based Old National, Live Nation said the Murat as a whole would be named "Old National Centre," while venues inside the complex, especially the 2,500-seat, 101-year-old Murat Theatre and Egyptian Room, would keep their original names.

The association is seeking an injunction to remove the new sign for "Old National Centre" over the Murat's marquee, plus damages. The Shriners argue that the renaming casts them in a poor light because the general public may think it brings some financial benefit to the not-for-profit fraternal organization.

Live Nation representatives did not return multiple phone calls seeking comment about the case.

"I was amazed that two people think so diametrically about what the rights are under the lease," said Jeff Abrams, partner in charge of the Indianapolis office for Benesch Law. Abrams has been one of the city's topcommercial real estate attorneys for more than a decade.

If Live Nation had been his client, Abrams said he would have simply looked at the lease to see what's allowed. "In every good lease, there's always a provision dealing with signs."

The lease does deal with signs, as well as improvements to the building. However, the Murat Temple Association lawsuit does not cite those provisions. Instead, it focuses on the fact that the lease does not offer the right to rename the entire multibuilding facility, which includes several areas the Shriners continue to use.

The lawsuit also names Old National Bank, accusing the bank of improperly entering into a naming-rights agreement without regard the Shriners' objections  

Plaintiff's attorney Bryce Bennett said Old National was included because the bank never determined whether Live Nation's lease included the right to sell naming rights.

The suit says the Shriners first contacted Live Nation's local general manager, Terry Hennessey, by letter in January to warn against changing the facility's name. On March 16, association President Craig Hinshaw sent Hennessey another letter, which was copied to Old National CEO Bob Jones, warning him that the association considered the renaming a violation of the lease.

Randy Reichmann, Old National's CEO for the Indianapolis region, said he wasn't sure what steps the bank took to determine Live Nation's rights. He said he was surprised to learn that the Shriners objected to the renaming.

"Our intention is to push forward," Reichmann said Tuesday morning. "We've got a valid contract with LIve Nation, and we're going to let them work out the issues with the Shriners."

The Murat Temple Association originally struck the 100-year lease with Murat Centre LP, an entity controlled by Dave Lucas and Sunshine Promotions Inc. on Sept. 1, 1995. At the time, the Murat’s historic buildings were in desperate need of renovation, and Lucas’ company agreed to do the work in partnership with the city of Indianapolis. The renovation cost more than $12 million. The annual rent paid under the lease is $50,000.

Live Nation, a spinoff of Clear Channel, inherited the lease after a series of acquisitions.

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  • End the Speculation and Cheap Name-Calling
    Clayton, if Live Nation holds valid naming rights, which are often held by tenants in venue leases like the one Live Nation holds, then there would be no reason for Old National to have the Shriners as co-signatories to any naming agreement. So, unless you have (A) carefully read the lease Live Nation holds and (B) you are an expert commercial real estate attorney who in his expert opinion has determined that Live Nation holds no such naming rights, your comment alleging that Old National made a "mistake" by not having the Shriners as co-signatories is simply unfounded. Second, Live Nation does not have a bad reputation as a company, so there is no "mistake" by Old National to enter into a business transaction with them. Currently, Live Nation is getting some flak because it has chosen to exercise the rights it claims to have under its lease with the Shriners. If Live Nation does in fact have such legal rights, then it is perfectly legitimate for the company to exercise them.

    Again, it is time for the Peanut Gallery to shut up. This is a legal dispute which should and will be settled in a court of law, not in the "court of public opinion."
  • Opposite Effect
    Old National Bank's first mistake was to associate itself with Live Nation. Secondly, Old National attorneys should have required the Shriners to be signatories on a "re-naming" agreement. Now Old National has the same putrid smell as Live Nation and that's NOT good PR for a bank.
    • Naming Rights Fact of Life
      Hey Dan, when's the last time you have been to Conseco Fieldhouse or Lucas Oil Stadium?? C'mon on, naming rights deals happen all the time now. Whether you like them or not, it is a legitimate form of branding/marketing for a company.

      And, it certainly has nothing to do with greed. I have been a customer of Old National for 11 years and as someone who has negotiated a naming rights deal for one of my clients, I can tell you that both Old National and Live Nation are well within their boundaries to strike such a deal. It hurts no one...

    • Chris / "Fact Check"
      Thank you for being the lone voices of reason on this string of posts. I would agree that people should check their facts and allow this issue to run its legal course before they make assumptions about individual companies. I can't speak for Live Nation as a whole but I can speak for the integrity of Old National Bank, as I am an employee of the bank. Last year alone, ONB donated more than $1 million dollars and over 75,000 hours of community service. As an Indiana bank our tax dollars stay in Indiana, unlike those tax dollars of the other banks in town which go to New York, Ohio, etc. We were one of the first 5 banks in the nation to pay back the TARP money and buy back the warrants issued by the government. The reason why we could afford a venture like this is because we are a conservative bank who didn't take risks like many others and are in a financially strong position compared to our competition. We didn't engage in sub-prime lending and risky investment strategies. As you may be able to tell, I am very passionate about Old National Bank. ONB treats its clients and associates with a great deal of respect and I welcome any doubters to visit a local banking center to find out for yourself. One more note, I have a hard time believing that companies like Live Nation and Old National would enter into an agreement like this without reviewing the contract between the Shrine and Live Nation. I imagine both retain quality legal council and wouldn't have allowed either party to complete the deal had there been any question whether Live Nation had the right to change the name. This will be just like Deer Creek, the tickets and advertising will say Verizon Wireless but everyone will still refer to it as Deer Creek.
    • Again, it's simply a contract dispute.
      There is no statement from Old National that they didn't know. They stand by their opinion that Live Nation has valid naming rights.

      Live Nation is not stupid, it's a big business. It's not going to enter into a contract without a solid legal argument that it has naming rights, especially when the Shriners objected long before the deal with Old National was signed. Again, I repeat, if the Shriners had such a solid legal claim as they assert, then they why didn't they do what any other organization would do once Live Nation rejected their letter objecting to the name change--which is sue for an injunction BEFORE the name change occurred? What wait now? It makes zero sense. Perhaps, it is because they didn't read their own lease with Live Nation and their legal claim is not so solid.

      In any event, this is a matter for the legal system, not the "court of public opinion." Finally, it's sad that people want to bad-mouth a Hoosier bank, no wonder Indiana is struggling to hold on to the good companies it has and to attract new ones.
    • It's Simply A Contract Dispute
      How is Old National "greedy?" Is advertising greedy? If so, then every business large and small in this country is greedy.

      Look, it is a contract dispute, and it is a legal, not an emotional issue. Perhaps, the Shriners should have hired a better real estate attorney and read what they signed before entering a lease if they didn't want Live Nation to have rights to change the name on the signs. Also, what was the Murat before Shineshine Productions and later Live Nation took over? Oh yeah, it was a DUMP! I know, I was in it for weddings, etc. over the years, and if it weren't for the theater renovation and the productions first Sunshine Productions and now Live Nation books, the place would be a big mouldering heap.

      As for Old National, it is a HOOSIER bank that has done and is doing more for Indiana than any of the big Wall Street banks ever have done or are doing now. The Shriners claim they knew about and objected to Live Nation about the name-change long before it happened, but they didn't get a satisfactory response from Live Nation. If their legal claim was so solid, then why didn't they simply file a lawsuit back then to get an injunction to prevent the name change in the first place? Why wait until well after the new signs were put up and press releases were sent out? The whole point of an injunction is to stop an injury before it occurs, if you have advanced notice and you think the other party won't cooperate, then assuming you have a valid legal claim, you should file for an injunction BEFORE you suffer the alleged injury. It is rather strange they are just suing now.

      I think this whole thing is best left to the legal system to sort out. Although, I will repeat my advice that all parties try mediation before the legal fees rack up and the attorneys end up being the only individuals who profit from the situation.
    • Fact Check
      Before you begin to rip on Old National you should take a look at their track record for community giving and involvement. http://www.oldnational.com/pdfs/Community-Investment-Reports/2009-Community-Investment-Report.pdf

      Hicks, really? You should be ashamed that is the best arguement you can come up with. What's so wrong with a business trying to gain market share by advertising and helping put recognition back to the building. Yes, that's right, more conversation has taken place about the Murat than in the past 10 years. And this is bad for the Shriners, how? Most people forget that when the lease was signed the previous company put up $12MM to improve the building, would there have been a building to complain about had that not happened?
    • Murat
      I can't believe that they would even consider changing the name of one of the city's oldest and finest landmarks to Old National. Talk about greedy bankers. I will never do business with them after this.
      • Name is more than signage
        I wrote an ask for naming rights for a NFP once. I thought that the owner of a building owns the naming rights. You might be able to put up a sign as a billboard for Old National, but I'd think the naming rights would be the Shriners to sell, not the tenant's.
      • Did anyone notice?
        It seems a little strange to me that during this time of recession and bailouts that Old National would cough up a million dollars to put their name on ANY building. As far as Live Nation is concerned...get a buck anywhere you can. Somebody should have read that contract a little more thoroughly.
      • Murat
        The excuse of "I didnt know" is LAME. I would further agree that if this is the way Old Nations does business, I would not touch them at all. Finally, the name change should go back AND damages awarded to the Shrine Hospital.
        • Murat
          The excuse of "I didnt know" is LAME. I would further agree that if this is the way Old Nations does business, I would not touch them at all. Finally, the name change should go back AND damages awarded to the Shrine Hospital.
        • How do they do normal business?
          If this is the way Old National Bank does on contracts, how can its customers feel about how they do their business? I cannot believe the CEO is doing the snowball "I don't know" excuse. They did not care about the shriners or the damage they did and will do with this stupidity. I think they should forfeit their contract and donate money to the Shrine Hospitals as an apology.

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