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Former Woodstock 50 Financier Slams Producer Michael Lang in Legal Rebuttal

Lawyers for erstwhile Woodstock 50 financier Dentsu slammed festival organizer Michael Lang in legal documents filed before a hearing today in which the company is seeking an emergency injunction over nearly $18 million for the event, which is scheduled to take place at the Watkins Glen International speedway August 16-18 — just three months from now.

Referencing Dentsu’s investment arm, Amplifi Live, attorney  Marc L. Greenwald writes in part: “Amplifi Live worked nonstop for the last 10 months and invested millions of dollars to put on the Woodstock 50th anniversary festival in Watkins Glen this August.

“But Woodstock 50 LLC’s and Michael Lang’s misrepresentations, incompetence, and contractual breaches have made it impossible to produce a high-quality event that is safe and secure for concertgoers, artists, and staff. The production company has quit, no permits have been issued, necessary roadwork has not begun, and there is no prospect for sufficient financing. As much as the parties might wish it otherwise, the festival contemplated by their agreement cannot happen and allowing it to go forward would only put the public at risk. The injunction sought by W50, even if there were a legal basis for it, cannot change that.”

Reached by Variety, a rep for the festival replied, “While Dentsu has used its filing to sling mud, nothing in its court papers changes the fact that Dentsu has no right under its agreement with Woodstock 50 to either cancel the Festival or abscond with nearly $18 million of the Festival’s money.  We look forward to addressing that in court this afternoon.”

Last week, Lang wrote Dentsu a letter asking that the company “honor the law and your obligations, stop interfering with our efforts to put on this wonderful event and return the $17 million you improperly took.”

The letter alleges that Dentsu’ investment branch Amplifi “illegally swept approximately $17 million from the festival bank account” on April 29, the same day that Dentsu surprised Lang by announcing that they had unilaterally canceled the festival. (Last week Variety published an article examining  this and several other Woodstock 50 issues.)

A rep for Dentsu-Aegis dismissed Lang’s claim that the money was taken illegally, saying in a statement provided to Variety: “As financial partner, we had the customary rights one would expect to protect a large investment. After we exercised our contractual right to take over, and subsequently, cancel the festival, we simply recovered the funds in the festival bank account, funds which we originally put in as financial partner. Further, tickets cannot go on sale for an event prior to obtaining a mass gathering permit, which has still not been granted. Beyond that we stand by our original statement that we made last week.”

Greenwald continued in his filing that Lang repeatedly misrepresented the capacity of the festival site, Watkins Glen International speedway, and about his progress in securing a mass-gathering permit. The document claims that Lang said the site could accommodate 150,000 people; the permit application, filed last month, is for half that number and no permit has been obtained. Schuyler County administrator Tim O’Hearn told Variety late last month that the original attendance figure was 102,000 but had been lowered to 75,000.

A rep for the festival told Variety that Dentsu is the cause for the permit’s delay: “The permit was ready to go on April 22 but there was a stipulation put on its issue for a bond to be put in place which Dentsu refused to activate. We are hopeful the permit will be forthcoming to us in the coming days.”

“W50 repeatedly ignored the safety assessment of the festival’s producer—a producer that W50 itself picked, and repeatedly insisted that the festival capacity was much higher,” Greewald wrote. “Not only did W50 book talent, but it promised to make payments to the artists, contrary to Amplifi Live’s explicit instructions. Amplifi Live had no option but to make these payments after a damaging rumor leaked to the public that the Festival was experiencing financial difficulties, threatening the Festival’s success.”

 

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