Woodstock 50 Organizers Sue Ex-Financial Partner, Claiming ‘Sabotage’ and ‘Destruction’
Organizers of the failed Woodstock 50 music festival have filed a lawsuit against Dentsu Group, their former financial partner, and several affiliates. The Woodstock 50 team is seeking tens of millions of dollars in damages, claiming that Dentsu and company were responsible for the "sabotage" and "destruction" of the Upstate New York music festival.
Rolling Stone reports that Woodstock 50's organizers filed their suit in New York Supreme Court on Wednesday (June 17), alleging that Dentsu Group, Dentsu Aegis Network and MKTG "are directly responsible for the destruction of the Woodstock 50 Anniversary Festival," having allegedly attempted to cancel the festival in April of 2019 and interfered with organizers' ability to put on Woodstock 50 without their financial backing. They also claim that another Dentsu Group affiliate, Amplifi Live LLC, which "governed the terms of the production of the festival," breached their agreement, though they are not officially suing Amplifi.
"Dentsu’s wrongful actions to defame Woodstock 50 were undertaken for the purpose of preventing other parties from attending, financing or participating in the Festival, and were intended to and did ensure that the Festival failed and Woodstock 50 could make no profit from the Festival,” the suit explains. "Absent Dentsu’s wrongful actions, Woodstock 50 would have been able to successfully produce the Festival, and further monetize the Festival through media and sponsorship deals and future licensing deals relating to the Festival."
The complaint continues, "Despite Woodstock 50’s best efforts, Dentsu’s sabotage was effective and complete, and directly resulted in huge damages to Woodstock 50. As a result of Dentsu’s egregious conduct, Woodstock 50 is entitled to tens of millions of dollars in compensatory and punitive damages."
An Amplifi Live spokesperson tells Rolling Stone that the company "acted in the best interest of the public last year after Woodstock 50 breached its agreement. After a full evidentiary hearing, the court credited Amplifi Live’s evidence that a safe and profitable festival could not be mounted, and therefore refused to order Amplfi Live to continue funding the project," a decision the spokesperson notes "was affirmed on appeal."
“The parties are about to engage in an arbitration hearing, but Woodstock 50 prefers baseless claims in press releases rather than to have the parties’ dispute decided by arbitrators,” Amplifi Live's statement continues. “Amplfi Live is vigorously defending these claims in arbitration and pursuing breach and fraud claims against Woodstock 50. Amplifi Live and its parent and affiliates will vigorously defend Woodstock 50’s eleventh-hour effort to escape the arbitration forum.
"Woodstock 50 does not represent the Woodstock brand, having lost that license, and the claims in this new filing have no merit and are improper," Amplifi Live conclude. A spokesperson for Dentsu Group also denies Woodstock 50 organizers' allegations.
Woodstock 50, a three-day festival to mark the 50th anniversary of the original, lauded 1969 Woodstock festival, was originally scheduled for Aug. 16-18, 2019, in Watkins Glen, N.Y. After organizers announced Miley Cyrus, Brandi Carlile, Anderson East, Sturgill Simpson, Margo Price and more as performers, Dentsu Group and Amplifi Live pulled out of the event in April and announced its cancellation, despite organizers saying the company did not have the right to do so.
Amplifi Live had promised to invest $49 million in the festival, then backed out, claiming that organizers were not meeting requirements. After Woodstock 50 organizers -- a group including Michael Lang, co-founder and producer of the original Woodstock -- filed a court order, the New York Supreme Court ruled in May of 2019 that Amplifi Live did not have the legal right to cancel the event.
Organizers found new financing and continued to move forward with their plans, but the operators of Watkins Glen International, the raceway at which the festival was to take place, pulled out due to logistical concerns, and artists began dropping out of the lineup as well. Organizers officially canceled the event in late July.
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