Marc Geiger Sued by Venue Owners Over COVID-19 Pandemic Deal – Billboard
Written by GRB on 10/06/2023
The owners of a small Palm Springs, Calif., venue are suing Marc Geiger and his company SaveLive, claiming the former WME agent deceived them into accepting an investment in their venue during the COVID-19 pandemic as part of a ruse to take over the business without paying a fair price.
In a lawsuit filed May 25, Melanie Tusquellas and Elizabeth Garo allege that The Alibi, a 200-capacity venue and restaurant in Palm Springs, had fallen on hard times after the COVID-19 pandemic forced its temporary closure in 2020. Worried about losing their investment, the two felt relieved when they began discussions with Geiger late that year about a possible plan to save the venue.
Geiger had hoped to ink deals with The Alibi and dozens of other venues in need of financing during the pandemic, offering struggling facilities a capital infusion in exchange for 51% control of their business. About a dozen venues accepted the deal, SaveLive officials would later claim.
Geiger, a former global co-head of music at WME, would call the venture SaveLive — and with the help of business partner and former WME principal John Fogelman, he would go on to raise $135 million to invest in the venture.
The arrangement was appealing to Tusquellas — co-owner of the historic Edendale Grill & Bar and El Chavo Restaurant in Silverlake, Los Angeles — and Garo, a well-known L.A. talent buyer who had booked Spaceland, The Echo and The Echoplex and co-founded the Echo Park Rising Festival.
“Being able to partner with SaveLive is a dream come true,” Garo said in an April 2022 press release announcing the partnership between The Alibi and SaveLive. “Tusquellas and I can stay true to our roots knowing we have their full support,” Garo continued, adding, “It doesn’t hurt that we’ve known some of the people at SaveLive for years — we all came up through the business together.”
A key component of the agreement Geiger struck with Garo and Tusquellas, according to the women’s attorney, Miles Feldman, in the complaint, was that “SaveLive was committed to maintaining the character of the businesses with such existing owners continuing to have control of the operations.”
“Based on Geiger’s misrepresentations,” the complaint reads, Garo and Tusquellas sold a 51% ownership interest in The Alibi to a holding company controlled by SaveLive and contributed their remaining 49% interest to a second holding company controlled by SaveLive. Under the deal, Garo and Tusquellas would retain the liquor license for The Alibi through a business entity called 369 Palm Inc, which entered into an agreement with Geiger’s group to serve as The Alibi’s concessionaire.
“Shortly after 369 Palm sold a majority interest in The Alibi, Save Live’s true intentions became crystal clear,” Feldman wrote in the civil complaint. SaveLive officials allegedly “insisted that its accountant be responsible for keeping the financial books and records for the concessions business,” despite an agreement that the concessions business “would be run separately from SaveLive’s operation and booking of The Alibi.”
When met with objections, “SaveLive responded with personal threats and intimidation,” ultimately stifling “the resurgence of The Alibi, forcing it to close again in July 2022 less than four months after its grand re-opening,” the complaint reads.
After allegedly ignoring the concessionaire agreement and assuming control over food and beverage profits, SaveLive allegedly tried to force the women to sell their liquor license to SaveLive for only a fraction of its fair market value. When that failed, SaveLive officials allegedly used “repeated threats and intimidation” to try and force the women to transfer their liquor license to DLS Events, a concessionaire and bar service company that services Live Nation clients like the Palladium and the Wiltern in Los Angeles, along with 16 other venues under exclusive contract.
When Garo and Tusquellas refused, SaveLive shut down The Alibi and unsuccessfully attempted to trigger an option in the concession agreement forcing the sale of the liquor license. The shutdown of the venue, however, rendered the liquor license inactive, causing it to be surrendered to the California Alcoholic Beverage Control agency.
According to California law, the complaint claims, the liquor license for The Alibi “must be reactivated within one year; otherwise, the liquor license will be revoked, which would destroy the value of one of 369 Palm’s most valuable and prized assets.”
Garo and Tusquellas are suing SaveLive and Geiger for breach of contract, interference and fraud. They are asking for punitive damages against SaveLive, a cancellation of the concession agreement and a preliminary injunction forcing SaveLive to reopen The Alibi.
Geiger declined to comment on the lawsuit and the allegations.