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Woodstock settles with financial backer of anniversary edition that never happened

By | Published on Monday 1 February 2021

Woodstock 50

A long-running legal battle between the organisers of the Woodstock 50 festival that never was and the event’s financial backers has been resolved, it has emerged.

A 50th anniversary edition of Woodstock was planned for summer 2019, before cancelling festivals was the norm. So ahead of its time, Woodstock 50 was actually cancelled twice. And down-sized several times between the two cancellations.

The anniversary event began as a joint venture between the Woodstock company and marketing agency Dentsu. It was the latter that initially cancelled the event in April 2019 after it bailed on the project. The marketing firm expressed various concerns about the festival it was financially backing, not least that the licence secured for the event only allowed half the originally planned capacity.

However, it turned out that Dentsu wasn’t contractually allowed to unilaterally cancel Woodstock 50. And the Woodstock company – including Michael Lang, one of the organisers of the original Woodstock festival – insisted that the 2019 special edition would go head.

There was then some legal wrangling between the Woodstock company and Dentsu, mainly as the former battled to access monies already committed by the latter. With the clock ticking, the legal problems became logistical problems as the festival’s organisers missed payment deadlines and lost their venue in the process.

A proposed second venue ran into all sorts of licensing issues amid numerous objections from local residents, leading to a final proposal to shift the event to a new site nearly 300 miles away.

Ultimately, Woodstock 50 was properly cancelled. At the time organisers stressed that the cancellation was ultimately the result of “the unfortunate dispute with our financial partner and resulting legal proceedings [that] set us off course at a critical juncture”.

Despite all plans for Woodstock 50 ultimately being abandoned, the dispute between the Woodstock company and Dentsu continued, ploughing on into 2020.

Seeking damages from its one-time backer over the cancelled event, last May the Woodstock company initiated an arbitration clause in its original agreement with Dentsu. Then the following month it filed a lawsuit with the New York Supreme Court.

According to Billboard, it now transpires that the dispute went before an arbitration panel last October, which ultimately found in favour of the Woodstock company, concluding that Dentsu breached its contract when it bailed on the festival.

The marketing firm then subsequently settled the lawsuit out of court. As a result of all that, Dentsu will pay the Woodstock company “an undisclosed settlement sum covering damages but not unrealised profits”.

While the specifics of the settlement are not known, a spokesperson for Dentsu told Billboard simply that “the matter has been resolved to the mutual satisfaction of the parties”.

And so, that brings to an end the eventful saga that was the 50th anniversary Woodstock festival that never happened.