Is Woodstock 50 proceeding? Depends who you ask.
For the beleaguered three-day event, scheduled for August in Watkins Glen, New York, there was good news and iffy news on Wednesday. Woodstock LLC, the organizers of the festival, had filed a petition for an injunction against Dentsu Aegis, the Japanese advertising and marketing company that was initially going to finance the festival but pulled out (and declared it canceled) on April 29th. In its legal filing, the organizers were seeking, in large part, to have nearly $18 million in Dentsu festival funds returned to them.
After two days of hearings this week, a judge in New York Supreme Court ruled that Dentsu Aegis was not within its rights to cancel the festival on its own and that, in effect, Woodstock 50 can proceed as planned in August. Dentsu had exercised what it called a “Control Option” to shut down the festival after an alleged breach by Woodstock 50, but Judge Barry Ostrager asserted that the “control option” “does not provide [the company] with the right to unilaterally cancel the Festival” and that, “in sum, nothing in the [Financing and Production Agreement] indicates that [Dentsu subsidiary] Amplifi’s exercise of the Control Option overrides the contract’s explicit requirement that any cancellation of the Festival be mutually agreed upon in writing.”
However, the court did not grant Woodstock 50 the right to reclaim the $18 million, since, in Ostrager’s view, Woodstock LLC “falls woefully short of making the heightened showing necessary to warrant a mandatory injunction ordering Amplifi to return $17.8 million to the Festival Bank.”
Both sides immediately claimed victory in the split ruling. “We have always relied on the truth and have never lost faith that the Festival would take place,” said Woodstock co-founder Michael Lang. “I would like to thank all of the talent and their representatives for their patience and support. Woodstock 50 will be an amazing and inspiring festival experience.”
“We are gratified that Justice Ostrager has ruled unequivocally that Dentsu did not have the right to cancel the Festival, and is immediately enjoined from cancelling the Festival,” added Woodstock 50 LLC’s lawyer Marc Kasowitz. “Today’s order is an important victory that means the show will go on for the fans, the talent, and the world, which was and remains Woodstock 50’s mission.”
“We feel vindicated to hear that the court agreed with what we have maintained all along: Woodstock 50 was not entitled to access the festival bank account per the contract and thus any access now is denied and the $17.8M remains with Amplifi Live,” a rep for Amplifi Live said in a statement. “The court also noted that ‘…Amplifi [Live] asserted by convincing testimony adduced at the hearing that it intended to mitigate its damages from a music festival that could not be successfully produced by mid-August because, among other reasons, multiple permits necessary to conduct the Festival were not in place, tickets had not yet been sold, no budget had been agreed upon, necessary and expensive structural improvements to the Festival site and related areas had not yet started, and the production company essential to produce the Festival had withdrawn.’ The court did not rule that Amplifi Live’s assumption of control over the festival was improper or alter that status in any way. While we understand that pursuant to the court’s ruling Amplifi Live cannot cancel the festival without Woodstock 50’s agreement, at this time we do not intend to further invest in the festival due to the issues noted by the court, as well as the compressed timeframe, and multiple health and safety concerns.”
As of Wednesday evening, it’s unclear where organizers will find the millions of dollars of new financial backing it will need to put on the planned festival. At a court hearing on Monday, Gregory Peck, a hotel developer and partner of Lang in Woodstock LLC, said the festival needed funds “in a matter of days.” Peck added in a statement after the ruling, “Now that the court has confirmed that the Festival was never validly cancelled and is going forward, Woodstock 50 can focus on finalizing the necessary funding arrangements.”