StubHub Hit With $16M Verdict in Long-Running Court Battle With Ticketing Startup

StubHub must pay more than $16 million in legal damages after a jury decided that the ticketing giant intentionally torpedoed a smaller company’s lucrative concierge partnership with American Express.

Following a month-long trial, a Los Angeles jury on Friday (May 24) sided with Spotlight Ticket Management — a tech startup that had sued over allegations that StubHub failed to pay Spotlight millions in commissions and then used false statements to “poison” the company’s relationship with Amex.


Leading up to the trial, StubHub had argued it paid Spotlight everything that was owed and that the smaller firm had killed its Amex deal itself by being an “unreasonable partner” to the financial giant: “The true cause of Spotlight’s demise was Spotlight itself.”

But in Friday’s verdict, the jurors found for Spotlight on both issues. They ordered StubHub to pay $3 million over the commissions; $5.3 million over money lost from the terminated Amex partnership; and another $8.1 million that they said Spotlight would have earned from Amex in the future.

StubHub did not immediately return a request for comment. Amex was not named as a defendant in the case or accused of any wrongdoing. In a statement, Spotlight called the verdict “a victory for Spotlight, for affiliate partners more broadly, and for ticket purchasers across the country.”

Launched in 2007, Spotlight offers ticketing management software to help companies provide event access to their employees or customers. One of its major clients was Amex, which used Spotlight as part of its concierge system to buy concert and sports tickets for premium cardholders.

In its lawsuit, Spotlight claimed that it had successfully partnered with StubHub for years, sending as much as $85 million in ticket sales to the company’s platform and receiving a 7% commission on those sales.

But starting in 2016, Spotlight claimed that StubHub began underpaying those commissions. And when the smaller company raised the dispute, it claimed that StubHub retaliated by tanking its relationship with Amex with false and disparaging claims.

“StubHub gave Amex an ‘ultimatum’ that it could not work with Spotlight for these reasons and Amex would lose access to StubHub’s entire ticket inventory, crushing the availability of secondary market tickets to the Amex Concierge program overnight, unless Amex got rid of Spotlight,” the company’s attorneys wrote in a pre-trial briefing.

StubHub sharply disagreed. In its own filings, the company argued that it had paid Spotlight all the commissions that it was actually owed under its affiliate program. And it said that the smaller company had “destroyed its own relationship with Amex” through “erratic behavior.”

“Spotlight has taken a modest dispute about payment of affiliate commissions and morphed it into a conspiratorial web to support its claim for hundreds of millions of dollars,” StubHub’s attorneys wrote. “Amex witnesses have testified that they decided not to renew based on Spotlight’s unreasonable demands and that StubHub had nothing to do with Amex’s decision.”

But following a three-week trial, jurors believed Spotlight’s version of events, finding StubHub liable for breach of contract over the unpaid commissions as well as intentional interference with contract and intentional interference with prospective economic relations over the Amex partnership.

StubHub can appeal the verdict, first by asking the judge to order a new trial and then by taking the case to a California appeals court.

Bill Donahue