Woodstock 50 Sues Financier For ‘Sabotage’ of Anniversary Festival

Woodstock co-producer and co-founder, Michael Lang,
Evan Agostini/Invision/AP/REX/Sh

Woodstock 50 filed a lawsuit Wednesday seeking tens of millions of dollars from Dentsu, accusing the Japanese advertising firm of sabotaging plans for a 50th anniversary festival last year.

The lawsuit, filed in New York Supreme Court, contends that Dentsu and its subsidiary agreed to finance the festival but then manufactured an excuse to breach their agreement, thereby depriving the organizers of millions in revenue.

“Dentsu and Amplifi made the cold-blooded decision to exit their investment having nothing to do with any alleged breaches by Woodstock 50, but rather to avoid the potential that the Festival would not make money or not be as successful as they hoped,” the suit alleges.

Michael Lang, one of the producers of the original Woodstock, announced in March 2019 that acts like Jay-Z, Miley Cyrus and Janelle Monae and would perform at the Watkins Glen International racetrack that August. But the organizers were beset by internal fights over event capacity, and struggled to obtain the necessary permits from local officials.

On April 29, 2019, Amplifi sent out a press release canceling the event. Woodstock 50 went to court, seeking an injunction and arguing that the company did not have the right to cancel. Judge Barry Ostrager agreed that the contract did not give Dentsu the power to cancel the event unilaterally, but declined to order Dentsu to turn over $17.8 million to the organizers.

Woodstock 50 sought to regroup with other backers, and considered several other venues before finally pulling the plug on July 31.

Woodstock 50 is already pursuing Amplifi — the Dentsu subsidiary — in arbitration, pursuant to the requirements of the contract. But Woodstock 50 alleges that it can also go after Dentsu in civil court.

“Woodstock 50 has filed this action to ensure complete relief for the harms Dentsu has caused beyond those addressed in the pending two-party arbitration,” the suit states.

The suit states claims of interference with contract, trade libel, and conspiracy. Woodstock 50 alleges that Dentsu badmouthed the festival after inducing Ampflifi’s breach, harming the organizers’ ability to carry on without the Japanese firm.