Arena’s ‘War’ on Ticket Resellers Heads to Court

     MANHATTAN (CN) — After an amicable relationship of 15 years, Madison Square Garden “has now declared war” on ticket agencies and resellers for tickets to Knicks and Rangers games, two resellers claim in court.
     Ticket resellers S4K Entertainment Group and J.A.J. Executive Services sued Madison Square Garden’s corporate entity in New York County Supreme Court on Thursday.
     In 2007, New York amended its Art and Cultural Affairs Law to bar venues from revoking season tickets based on resale, a change that boosted the market for sporting and theatrical events.
     This change created an industry of resellers, which — like the plaintiffs — sold the arena’s tickets to individuals, corporations and Fortune 500 companies.
     The resellers say that the Garden knew about their businesses, and cultivated a relationship with them before announcing a “sudden policy shift” on March 30 that limits the number of Knicks and Rangers subscriptions that could be “controlled” by any “single customer.”
     In an email reproduced in the lawsuit, the Garden told the resellers: “No single customer will be able to purchase, manage or control more than eight (8) season tickets (directly or indirectly).”
     When the Garden determined account holders exceeded this number, the arena threatened to revoke the opportunity to renew these seats, according to the lawsuit.
     S4K says that the Garden also clamped down on season-ticket holders that used its services.
     “Needless to say, plaintiffs’ clients were distressed to have received notice from MSG that their tickets were not being renewed because of their purported connection to S4K,” the 19-page complaint states.
     The resellers claim the new policy threatens their businesses while restricting competition, leading to a higher price for consumers.
     “MSG’s about-face seeks to destroy ticket resellers by depriving them of inventory under the pretext of ‘ensuring that as many of [their] valued fans as possible have the ability to purchase tickets,'” the lawsuit states.
     The resellers seek a restraining order, injunctive relief, declaratory judgment and punitive damages for eight counts of tortious interference, fraudulent inducement, and state arts, cultural and business law violations. They are represented by Larry Hutcher of Davidoff Hutcher & Citron in New York City.
     The Garden’s spokeswoman, Kimberly Kerns, said the lawsuit was “without merit.”
     “Our ticket policy simply limits the amount of tickets an individual can own or control in order to give many more fans access to Knicks and Rangers games,” she wrote in an email. “There is no restriction on the resale of tickets – any ticket we sell can be resold in any manner a buyer chooses. We do not single out professional sellers — they are able to buy tickets just like anyone else, and have the same ticket limits as everyone else.”

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