In the ongoing soap opera that is the Woodstock 50 anniversary festival, promoter Michael Lang has now accused his former investor Dentsu Aegis and it’s investing arm Amplifi Live of “sweeping” $17 Million from the festival’s bank accounts.
“Initially I had some concerns about linking an organization like Dentsu to Woodstock,” writes Lang in a five-page note to Dentsu, telling of his suspicions with working with the company in the first place:
“Corporations are not always the right match for certain creative endeavors, but I learned that Dentsu has pursued various social initiatives after certain tragedies and scandals that Dentsu faced which gave me confidence that your company would be an ethical and honorable firm to partner with. Your officer here, DJ Martin, Chief Commercial Officer, reassured me that Dentsu would not interfere, and equally important, could embody the special meaning of Woodstock. It would only be in a supportive financial role to ensure our mutual success.”
Lang continued in his letter:
“Together, our organizations faced a question of cash flow since Dentsu had not been successful in selling sponsorships for the Woodstock Festival. To fill this void, my side had been working to obtain completion financing and based upon the feedback we had been getting were confident we would be successful. We communicated this to your people. We had also been working on value engineering the site to improve the economics. By Friday, April 26th, 2019, we presented multiple plans illustrating a slight profit and substantiated these plans with supporting documents. However, for reasons not explained to us, it seemed to fall on deaf ears.”
Back on April 29, Dentsu Aegis decided to pull out of the festival, saying in a public statement that they had taken over the festival and were announcing its cancellation. Lang says he was not made aware of this until it had hit the news and that Dentsu had no legal right to make these claims or to cancel the festival.
It was also at this point that Lang learned about the missing money.
“While we were on a call together as a group at 12:00 EDT, the media had already begun reporting that Woodstock was canceled. I then learned that Amplifi illegally swept approximately $17 million from the festival bank account, leaving the festival in peril. These actions confirmed my worst concerns about partnering with your company. These actions are neither a legal nor honorable way to do business.”
He goes on to claim that not only did Dentsu unlawfully cancel the event, but also contacted stakeholders in an attempt to get them to break their contracts. According to Rolling Stone, Lang goes as far as to allege that the company’s representatives “advised talent to back out of Woodstock to appeal for a spot during the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo,” an event Dentsu is also working to organize.
Lang concludes the letter:
“We would only ask that you honor the law and your obligations, stop interfering with our efforts to put on this wonderful event and return the $17 million you improperly took. It is one thing if your company, Dentsu, wanted to back out of its commitment to Woodstock because it would not make as much money as it had hoped, but to try to suffocate and kill Woodstock so that we could not have a festival for our Golden Anniversary without you is puzzling for any company, let alone one that claims reform.”
Dentsu Aegis has since responded to the claims, saying that their actions were justified. A spokesman for the company said,
“As financial partner, we had the customary rights one would expect to protect a large investment. After we exercised our contractual right to take over, and subsequently, cancel the festival, we simply recovered the funds in the festival bank account, funds which we originally put in as financial partner. Further, tickets cannot go on sale for an event prior to obtaining a mass gathering permit, which has still not been granted. Beyond that, we stand by original statement made last week.”
Aside from the departure of Dentsu, Woodstock 50 has been dealt a few more blows over the last few weeks. Meer days after Dentsu jumped ship, so did production partner Superfly, leaving the event without that funding as well. The event is also still missing some key New York state permits, which has delayed tickets from going on sale.
Woodstock 50 is supposed to take place August 16-18 at Watkins Glen International Speedway in Watkins Glen, NY, 50 years to the day of the original 1969 festival. Performers slated to appear include original attendees Santana, Robert Plant, Dead & Company (Grateful Dead), Country Joe McDonald, the Zombies, Canned Heat and Hot Tuna, as well as more current artists The Killers, Fever 333, Greta Van Fleet, Portugal. The Man, Jay-Z, Imagine Dragons, Cage the Elephant and many more. Tickets for the event have yet to go on sale.