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Woodstock 50 Finds New Financial Partner, Keeping Beleaguered Fest Alive

Oppenheimer & Co. will now provide the festival’s funding as organizers hustle to try and secure permits

Xxx participates in the Woodstock 50 lineup announcement at Electric Lady Studios, in New YorkWoodstock 50 Lineup Announcement, New York, USA - 19 Mar 2019

Woodstock 50, led by original Woodstock cofounder Michael Lang, has found a new financial partner.

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

The organizers of Woodstock 50 have found a new financial partner following their acrimonious split with Dentsu Aegis. Oppenheimer & Co., a New York–based investment bank and financial services company, has agreed to provide a new round of financing, though the firm did not disclose how much it was putting into the beleaguered fest.

“We are thrilled to be onboard for this incredible weekend of music and social engagement,” John Tonelli, head of Debt Capital Markets & Syndication at Oppenheimer & Co. Inc, said in a statement. “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 lineup.”

“We look forward to putting on an incredible festival,” Michael Lang, a cofounder of the original Woodstock and producer on Woodstock 50, said. “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.”

While Oppenheimer’s investment provides a much-needed lifeline for organizers, it hardly mitigates all of the issues needed to secure that the festival will occur. Organizers still have to secure a number of crucial permits, including a mass-gathering one from the New York State Department of Health, before tickets can go on sale. In an interview with Sirius on Thursday, Lang assured listeners that a new ticket on-sale date would be announced soon. A rep for the New York State Department of Health told Rolling Stone this week that nothing had changed with regard to the status of Woodstock’s petition for a mass-gathering permit.

Earlier this week, a justice of the New York State Supreme Court ruled that Dentsu was not legally allowed to cancel the fest, as it had announced it had on April 29th. The company had said Woodstock 50 had missed a number of milestones, including building safety plans and agreeing on a cap on tickets that could be sold. In the meantime, the festival’s production partner, Superfly — which also puts on Bonnaroo and Outside Lands — also ended its contract with the event, citing several breaches of contract, including many of the same complaints as Dentsu.

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The festival fired back with a lawsuit against Dentsu, which led to a hearing. Both sides claimed partial victory after the proceedings. Although Woodstock 50 could carry on with the planning of the festival, Dentsu did not need to return the nearly $18 million of its own money it had taken from the event’s bank account.

In a previous court filing, Woodstock’s producers claimed it needed $6 to $9 million to cover fees to make the festival happen. Dentsu’s original budget for the festival was a little more than $49 million, based on selling 150,000 tickets. Since then, Superfly informed them that they thought the festival grounds could hold no more than 61,000 people. In his Sirius interview, Lang was confident that the capacity for the festival would be 75,000 attendees.

The planned festival, set to take place on the 50th anniversary of the original Woodstock August 16th through 18th, is now less than three months away. The Killers, Miley Cyrus, Dead & Company, Chance the Rapper, Jay-Z and Imagine Dragons are all set to headline.

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