A Merger for the Arts
January 22, 2011
There is a need for M&A Lawyers for the Arts! When an arts institution focuses on artistic success and runs into administrative difficulties, a merger with an administrative-minded body may present a wonderful opportunity to create a sustainable arts entity.
And so the Washington National Opera [WNO], facing a number of administrative difficulties and debts, has announced plans to merge with the Kennedy Center.
Placido Domingo has been acting as the General Director of the WNO since 1996, and he will allow his contract to come to an end in June. Where did the tenor go wrong? The Washington Post reports that, “[The WNO] grew too fast, without a support base broad enough to sustain the director’s dreams in the long term. Domingo was also busy enough with his singing, conducting and other administrative role as general director of the Los Angeles Opera that he wasn’t able to be present as a full-time fundraiser for his ambitious projects.” Perhaps it is true artists do not make the best administrators. As a result of the WNO merger, which takes effect in July, the Kennedy Center will take over the opera’s administrative and business functions.
What will the new structure look like? The New York Times reports that the WNO “will maintain a separate board; its endowment will be accounted for separately; and donations designated for the opera will be spent on the opera. Otherwise, the organizations’ finances will be merged.” The National Symphony Orchestra made a similar affiliation with the Kennedy Center in 1986, taking advantage of the Center’s infrastructure.
In any such merger, the combination of artistic genius with administrative expertise helps make an arts institution sustainable. This kind of merger was seen for the first time in the dance world at the end of 2010. Bill T Jones, a dance company, merged with Dance Theater Workshop, a dance producer. Jones said of the merger, “I would like to put [my connections and expertise] at the disposal of another entity that hopefully will have an ever-expanding cultural footprint that will also satisfy my need to participate in the world of ideas.” [Dance/USA]
It will be interesting to see what kinds of mergers will take place over the coming years and how the business and legal structures of arts institutions will develop.