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Alexandra

Corporate takeovers of ballet companies?

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Something new to worry about? Or a possible salvation?

In a news search today, I found an article about an Australian corporate director who's urging his government to make some Australian companies, including opera and ballet, to remain owned by Australian nationals.

The federal Treasurer, Peter Costello, rejected Shell's bid for Woodside in April last year on national-interest grounds. Goode says it is part of the national identity to have some large companies that operate internationally, are more attuned to their local environment than foreign companies, and provide employment for talented people who do not want to move overseas to advance their careers. "We support the establishment and maintenance of Australian organisations in the arts, with the Australian Opera and the Australian Ballet, and in sport, with the Australian Institute of Sport," he says. "I think there is a case for maintaining Australian ownership of a limited number of important companies.

read article

I'd never thought of the possibility of, say, McDonalds (much less a non-American company) wanting to buy, say, ABT or New York City Ballet. Think of the possibilities!

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The possibilities scare me. I've thought about this one and considering the boards of most of these companies are already "big shots" at corporations.

Ballet companies already rely on major corporations for funding and sometimes that doesn't work out (Houston Ballet and Enron).

The thought of seeing ABT on the stock exchange though...

The topic beckons the question of the Artistic Director's job.

I think, and someone please correct me if I'm wrong, that SFB is the only company that lists a CEO in their company.

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I hadn't thought about the significance of the CEO title. Wasn't Jeffrey Babcock CEO of Boston Ballet? (I'm not sure, but I think so.)

Luckily, ballet companies don't make a profit! Otherwise, they certainly would be on the stock exchange.

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The Kennedy Center used to have a program that Michael Kaiser developed where they gave artists "CEO" type training. I don't know if it's still in existence, but...

Do many companies NOT make a profit? I know NYCB and ABT both ran black and I thought Helgi had turned SFB around.

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Calliope, I think the Kennedy Center program is in its first year, so too early to see results. On making a profit, I think you're right that there are companies that are in the black, but since so much of their income is from fundraising, not income from sales, I don't think they would be profitable to a corporation with shareholders.

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Ugh, can you imagine seeing the golden arches emblazened across the curtains at The NY State Theater? Of one of ABT's prima ballerinas turning out just a tiny bit more so as to show the audience the corporation's logo on the sole of her pointe shoe?! Yuck.

All joking aside the article is an interesting one... Does a Japanese company still own Radio City Music Hall? They did at one time didn't they? or was it just all the buildings around Rockefeller Center? Not that I'm against foreign investment but Mr. Costello does have a point about national identity.

However the part of the article that really caught my eye was at the very end:

Goode says the boards of not-for-profit organisations are not very different from the boards of companies: both have to focus on strategy, new technology, and attracting and retaining highly skilled staff. "It is helpful for (not-for-profit organisations) to have a business person on the board and it helps the business people understand that a number of people live their lives in a very productive and hard-working way that is not driven by monetary rewards," he says. "You meet some very fine people, with quite different philosophies of life."

[ February 24, 2002: Message edited by: BW ]

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Yeah, I can see the endorsement possibilities for McDonald's from owning a ballet company.

"Hi, I'm Suzzy Skinnikins, and when I'm in the mood for something delicious, I like nothing better than to think really, really hard about a Big Mac."

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Suzzy S can pig out on salad shakers, Manhattnik. Where's your sense of fun? Think of the Grand Ballet of the French Fries!

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Who needs Drosselmeyer when you can have Ronald?

Come to think of it, Ronald was on hand for Misha's debut with NYCB, back when....

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It's an impossibility. First, why would any corporations want to take over a money losing enterprise? ABT, NYCB, MoMA, the 2 Mets or any other cultural institutions have budget surplus because of government supports, private and corporate donations. They won't make money by selling tickets alone. Why would any corporations want to divert their resourses to tend such institutions? Shareholder watch groups, institutional investors and Wall Street analysts would have a lot to say for not minding their own money-making business. Philip Morris, a major contributor to ABT, has annual revenue of $80 billion. Why would it bother to take over an institutions that only generate millions?

Second, there are totally different set of government and IRS rules to govern non-profit organizations. In the NY State, all non-profit organizations are techically owned by the State. The artistic or executive directors run and set the direction of the organizations, the boards of trustees oversee the running. They don't issue shares of the institutions anyone could buy and own. Non-profit organizations can merge, subject to the State's approval like the proposed merger between WNET and WLIW, 2 NY area PBS stations. But there's no and there will be no precedent of corporations taking over a non-profit organization. The possibility of a corporation to take over Columbia or NYU for their huge endowments or any other purposes simply doesn't exist. However, a corporation can start and fund a non-profit organization with a totally independent personnel and board of trustees like the automobile musuem set up by Ford.

The possibility of seeing a corporate logo attached to State Theater is very remote. State Theater is owned by the City of New York, nothing can be done to the building without the City's permission. Selling naming rights may be an entirely different matter. There's a proposal from the Bloomberg administration of selling naming rights of city parks to corporations to fund the parks operations. But so far, I haven't come across any non-profit cultural institutions or their buildings named after corporations. Stadiums, ball parks and Broadway theaters, yes, but they're for profits. Imagine the Citigroup Metropolitan Opera House!!

I think what the Australian corporate director's trying to say is Australian corporations are as much as an national institution as Australian Ballet and Opera or some sport teams. Therefore, foreign ownerships to Australian companies should be restricted. I'd like to argue this point but it's beyond the scope of this broad.

[ February 25, 2002: Message edited by: mussel ]

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Well, there's always the Mafia. And company discipline would become no problem at all! wink.gif

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Mussel, just for the record, the Roundabout Theatre's new building is nmaed the American Airlines Theatre. It is on Broadway but is owned or perhaps controlled on a long term lease by a not-for-profit theatre co.

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I was thinking along the line of traditional opera houses and symphony halls. Roundabout Theater tries to accommondate plays that don't have too much appeal.

The newly opened Kimmel Performaning Arts Center comes pretty close where the main hall is named Verizon Hall and that's where Philly Symphony new home is.

I guess it's easier to sell naming rights of new buildings than old ones where there're lots of history, tradition and resistance to change attached to them.

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Roundabout Theater tries to accommondate plays that don't have too much appeal.

I'd disagree with that, they're re-staging of "The Women" was fantastic and sold out completely.

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I wasn't too clear earlier. The theater tries to accommodate plays they think wouldn't have too much commercial appeal or wouldn't have much chance in other theaters. Many plays in that theater are fantastic and of high-quality of course. The theater just want to give plays that are not too commerical a chance. If the plays turn out to be a commerical success, that'd be wonderful too.

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Mussel said: "The possibility of seeing a corporate logo attached to State Theater is very remote. State Theater is owned by the City of New York, nothing can be done to the building without the City's permission. Selling naming rights may be an entirely different matter."

Well NY State Theater was named for the state who I believe funded it, and might not be too happy to lose the designation. But lets not forget the granddaddy naming rights of them all Avery Fisher Hall. Avery Fisher, founder of Fisher Electronics donated huge sums of money for the re-doing of what was Philharmonic Hall.

Cant wait to go to the Philip Morris Opera House where one can hear the Metropolitan Opera perform. eek.gif

[ March 08, 2002, 03:14 AM: Message edited by: hal ]

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A very popular international event in Louisville has been sponsored by Humana for 20 years. The "Humana Festival of Plays" presented at Actors Theatre gives the theatre incredible exposure. Doesn't Texaco sponsor an opera program? Billion dollar industries can look good when they spend a few thousand on community projects, even if they lose money. Stadiums depend on corporate suites to insure their success. Corporate boxes at the ballet may be a great way to raise income.

Unfortunatly, artistic boards are increasingly composed of business types and are looking ONLY at the bottom line. The Executive Director title being replaced by CEO is a testament to that.

Commercialism may be the wave of the future but the problem would come down to who controls the artistic content. Do we sell our integrity, and at what price?

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I think it's up to the Artistic Director and donor to chart the waters between Scylla and Charybdis very carefully.

What does the donor want for his or her money? He or she needs to understand that name recognition and profound thanks is not artistic say.

The artistic director needs to look at the size of the donation. Is it so large that he or she is in fact handing some artistic control to the donor in the same way that when a business has one client, the client starts to call the shots?

If someone wanted serious naming rights like "The X Festival of New Works", that begins with a multi-year committment of support from them, come rain or come shine. You want your name on it, you're in for five years, whether you like what's being made or not.

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