SBJ/November 10 - 16, 2003/Forty Under 40

John Pleasants

Ticketmaster President and CEO John Pleasants and other company executives may have been out of their element when boss Barry Diller ordered cell phones shut off during a late October corporate confab in Phoenix.

Consider that most of them are heavily involved in advanced technology, especially after Diller's Interactive Corp. acquired Ticketmaster in January. Ticketmaster, Citysearch and Match.com joined Evite, Expedia, Hotels.com, Reserve America and other online portals to become one of the largest Internet-concentrated firms in the world.

Before heading to the in-house conference, Pleasants rattled off all those Web-based firms and the time line of the various mergers involving Ticketmaster, spewing forth tech talk that's a far cry from his background in marketing that once included a sales job with Frito-Lay.

He definitely has a firm grasp of the lingo after insisting last year, on making Forty Under 40 for the first time, that he is not a techie. But in the midst of chronicling Ticketmaster's amazing online growth in his nearly eight years on board, Pleasants manages to get to the heart of the matter.

"At its core, Ticketmaster is a ticketing company, which now is a very transformative category," he said. "We're one of the leading Internet businesses in the world. In 1996, we were zero percent online. Now we're more than 50 percent online. No other brick-and-mortar company can say that.

"But the bottom line is our goal is always to sell more tickets better ... to get more butts in the seats and also to optimize revenues. Those initiatives include peer-to-peer buying with Ticket Exchange and our new program with auctioning tickets in a premium market."

Brenda Tinnen, senior vice president of Anschutz Entertainment Group Facilities at Staples Center in Los Angeles, applauded the concept of what Pleasants described as "dynamic pricing" of high-end ticket inventory. She has known Pleasants since he started with Ticketmaster in 1996 and credits him with helping the industry's dominant ticketer stay on track with digital trends.

"Ticketmaster has for the past four to five years done quite a bit to keep up with the everyday world of technology and the Internet in purchasing tickets. And during that time, John has done quite a bit to keep Ticketmaster going forward to be user-friendly not only for the ticket-buying public but for all their clients," Tinnen said.

"He has been very proactive coming to the table with all the new bells and whistles and presenting them in a way that is easy to understand and implement. The fact that John is the first one in the door makes life easier for us."

Pleasants worked patiently with Staples Center box office employees to launch the initial ticket auction last April for the Lennox Lewis-Vitali Klitschko heavyweight fight at the arena. "We proposed the idea and John said it was a great idea," Tinnen said. "He asked us what could he do to make it work.

"Boxing events tend to come together very quickly, and we put tickets on sale sooner rather than later. It was a tight turnaround. But when you're doing any type of auction that resembles a lottery, there are legalities that have to be taken care of. But rather than saying it would not work and let's try it later, John and his staff worked over the weekend with us to get it right."

Pleasants, 38, is just starting to settle in after his rise through the Ticketmaster ranks. Although he joked about wanting to become a Starbucks barista, Pleasants added, "I'm not going anywhere. I've got a lot of work to do. I've got a great job and it's challenging. We have a chance to change the industry. I have my hands full."

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