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Woodstock announces new banker alliance, hopes to put tickets on sale soon

By | Published on Monday 20 May 2019

Woodstock 50

The Woodstock company announced on Friday that it has now allied with the bankers at Oppenheimer & Co as it seeks to secure the remaining finance required to stage its planned 50th anniversary event in August.

The organisers of Woodstock 50 were in court last week, of course, in a dispute with their previous financial backers Amplifi Live, which is a division of marketing group the Dentsu Aegis Network. Dentsu had previously pulled its funding for the event and announced that the festival had therefore been cancelled. But a New York court confirmed last week that the marketing group had no right to unilaterally cancel the event, and a judge banned the company from sending out any future correspondence talking about any cancellation.

In the wake of that ruling, a legal rep for Woodstock criticised comments Dentsu made about the judgement, even though the marketing firm conceded that “pursuant to the court’s ruling [we] cannot cancel the festival without Woodstock 50’s agreement”. Nevertheless, attorney Marc Kasowitz said Woodstock’s ex-backer had shown contempt by defending its previous decision to attempt to cancel the festival.

Kasowitz said last week: “In its public statements, Dentsu has shown utter contempt for the court’s decision, and continues to show utter contempt for the Woodstock 50 festival. The court unambiguously ruled that Dentsu had no right to try to assert control over the festival in Dentsu’s efforts to cancel it”.

“Indeed”, he went on, “Dentsu and its affiliated companies are explicitly enjoined from suggesting that there has been a cancellation or interfering with any of the festival stakeholders. Nevertheless, Dentsu has decided to disregard the court’s clear directive and suggest that it still has the right to kill the festival. Dentsu is dead wrong and Woodstock 50 is proceeding as planned”.

Although it is true that the New York court ruled in Woodstock’s favour over the question of whether or not Dentsu could cancel the 50th anniversary event, the judge declined to issue an order forcing the marketing group to return $17.8 million of funding that it had removed from the festival’s bank account. It’s no secret that, even as the dispute with Dentsu was ongoing, the Woodstock company had been sounding out possible new backers that could provide the necessary finance to ensure the August show can go on.

It has been reported that live music giants Live Nation and AEG have both previously declined to get involved, they being the most obvious possible partners to get on board at this relatively late stage. That led to questions being asked over whether or not organisers could realistically get the required finance in place in time. Presumably the Woodstock company hopes that the appointment of Oppenheimer & Co might end such pessimistic chatter.

It said on Friday: “The Woodstock 50 team is pleased to announce that Oppenheimer & Co has signed on as a financial advisor to complete the financing for the festival following a legal victory earlier this week. Event preparations will continue as planned as Oppenheimer joins the list of strong institutions producing the festival”.

Meanwhile John Tonelli, Head Of Debt Capital Markets & Syndication at the bank, said: “We are THRILLED to be on board for this incredible weekend of music and social engagement. We believe in Woodstock as an important American cultural icon and look forward to its regeneration in the green fields of Watkins Glen this August with all of the artists on the remarkable line-up”.

Woodstock co-founder Michael Lang, who has been something of a frontman for the 50th anniversary celebrations, added: “We’ve lined up artists who won’t just entertain, but will remind the world that music has the power to bring people together, to heal, to move us to action and to tell the stories of a generation”.

He then insisted that “words cannot express how appreciative Woodstock 50, the artists, the fans and the community are to Oppenheimer for joining with us to make W50 a reality”. Which sounds a little OTT. But I guess it’s true that the artists who have been booked to play would appreciate getting paid, and would therefore be appreciative of anyone who can help ensure that will happen.

And for their part, fans would presumably appreciate it if tickets would go on sale sooner rather than later. Following the bank’s involvement, Friday’s announcement promised news very soon about an on-sale date.



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