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Woodstock secures new financial backer for 50th anniversary festival

on May 17, 2019, 2:33pm

Woodstock co-founder Michael Lang has found a new financer to back his planned 50th anniversary festival.

Oppenheimer & Co., an investment bank and financial services company, has “signed on as a financial advisor to complete the financing for the festival,” according to a statement from the festival. “Event preparations will continue as planned as Oppenheimer joins the list of strong institutions producing the festival.”

John Tonelli, head of Debt Capital Markets & Syndication at Oppenheimer & Co. Inc., said: “We are thrilled to be onboard 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 lineup.”

Earlier this week, a judge in New York Supreme Court ruled that Woodstock’s previous financial backer, Dentsu Aegis Network, did not have the right to unilaterally cancel the festival. However, Judge Barry R. Ostrager also said Denstu does not have to return the $17.8 million dollars it withdrew from the festival’s shared bank account prior to announcing its cancelation. As a result, Lang was left scrambling for a last-minute cash infusion to fund the festival.

While Lang was successful in finding those funds, he still needs to untangle the complicated web of artists contracts, capacity issues, land permits, and ticket pricing that led Dentsu to pull out originally.

According to court documents (via Billboard), Lang repeatedly butted heads with Superfly, the company he hired to produce the festival, over the site’s capacity. Lang sought a capacity of 125,000 attendees, while Superfly believed 65,000 was a more realistic number, citing safety concerns. The reduced capacity altered Woodstock’s revenue models and led Dentsu to conclude that the festival was no longer financially viable. After Lang refused to alter talent budgets to accommodate the new revenue models, Dentsu end its backing of the event. Superfly also ended its involvement.

It’s unclear whether Lang has resolved the capacity questions or if he has acquired the necessary permits to stage a mass gathering event of its kind. It also remains to be seen whether artists previously booked to play the festival will honor their contracts.

“We’re not even going to have a discussion with Lang until we see that every permit needed for this event has been secured,” a talent agency head previously told Billboard. “I’d also like to hear how he plans to convince fans to buy tickets for an event that’s been already canceled.”

As of now, Woodstock 50 is still set to take place August 16th-18th in Watkins Glen, New York. The announced lineup includes many contemporary stars including JAY-Z, Miley Cyrus, Chance the Rapper, and Imagine Dragons alongside veteran artists like Robert Plant, Santana, David Crosby, John Fogerty, and Grateful Dead offshoot Dead and Company.