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Shriners weighing legal options against Live Nation

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Shriners are weighing their legal options to prevent Live Nation from renaming their building in downtown Indianapolis, which has been known for 100 years as the Murat.

Live Nation on Tuesday announced a naming-rights deal with Old National Bank, under which The Murat Centre at 502 N. New Jersey St. will be named Old National Centre for the next three years. The names of the venues within the building, including the Murat Theatre and Egyptian Room, remain unchanged.

The building belongs to the Murat Temple Association Inc., which is a not-for-profit holding company that shares board members with Murat Shrine club. The club has 6,500 members in affiliates throughout central Indiana.

"Our members are understandably upset," said Greg Miller, a board member of the Murat Temple Association and attorney based in Crawfordsville. "They believe we've participated in this and financially benefitted. We've not."

Miller said the Shriners caught wind of the impending name change in January and sent a letter to the venue's general manager, Terry Hennessey.  Miller said the letter demanded that Live Nation seek the Shriners' permission to change the name, but the letter went unanswered.

Hennessey did not return a phone call Friday.

Murat Temple Association directors were shocked to see an announcement about a press conference emblazoned across the building's marquee on Monday, March 15, when they arrived for a board meeting, Miller said.  "We were on high alert, scrambling," Miller said. "Obviously, the January letter had fallen on deaf ears."

Miller said the Shriners fired off another letter on Tuesday, and received a reply by e-mail Friday morning from the vice president of legal affairs at Live Nation. Miller said the Shriners' legal counsel would review it and craft a response.

The Shriners' lease with Live Nation allows the tenant to put up signage for sponsors and advertisers, Miller said. The lease also requires that the Murat Theatre retain its historic name. But it's silent on the subject of naming the building. "Unless those rights are specifically given to a tenant, they stay with the landlord," Miller said.

At the press conference on Tuesday, LIve Nation Senior Vice President Tom Mendenhall said the company didn't have to modify its lease with the Shriners before putting Old National's name on the building. "We had the right. It's under the lease agreement," he said.

The Murat Temple Association entered a 50-year lease on Sept. 1, 1995 with Murat Centre LP, a company controlled by Dave Lucas and Sunshine Promotions Inc. The locally based company was later sold to SFX Entertainment Inc. Clear Channel Communications, Inc. later bought SFX. Live Nation is a Clear Channel spin-off.

The lease includes five 10-year renewal options. Miller declined to say what Live Nation pays in annual rent.

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