In the wake of the sudden death of Shubert Organization chairman Gerald Schoenfeld, the appointment Tuesday night of Philip J. Smith and Robert E. Wankel as co-CEO’s reflected a company that looks to remain consistent.
“I’m sure we’re going to put our own stamp on things, but I don’t think there should be any drastic changes,” Smith said. “Jerry ran a tight ship.”
Both men are veterans of the influential company, which owns or operates 17 of the 39 theaters on Broadway and has produced a string of stage offerings.
Despite the flurry of talk speculating on who from outside the company might be brought in to take the reins, the decision to name Smith and Wankel seemed in many ways the obvious choice in an industry that often places a premium on history and tradition.
The appointment also reps a move toward shoring up stability in uncertain economic times.
“I don’t think there will be any disruption at all,” said Nancy Coyne, head of Broadway ad agency Serino Coyne and a 30-year vet of the industry.
Agreed another legiter: “It’ll be run exactly the same way it was two weeks ago.”
Smith, 77, had been prexy of the Shubert Org since 1996, while Wankel, 61, had been with the company for 33 years, most recently as exec VP and chief financial officer.
While both men share the title of co-CEO, Smith was appointed chairman and Wankel is now prexy.
In addition, Smith becomes chair of the Shubert Foundation, the private entity that is the sole shareholder of the org. Wankel is now a board member for both the foundation and the org.
Joint leadership echoes the partnership of chairman Schoenfeld and prexy Bernard B. Jacobs, who together took the helm of the Shubert Org in the 1970s. The pair are generally credited with helping to revitalize the industry at a time when Broadway was in a slump. (Jacobs died in 1996.)
Smith and Wankel top a company that also incorporates Shubert Ticketing, which operates the dominant Broadway box office service.
The foundation, meanwhile, doles out funds to nonprofit legit companies, dance troupes and arts institutions. In 2008, the entity, valued at more than $300 million, handed out grants totaling almost $17 million.