Lawyers for Woodstock 50 Continue Public Fight With Dentsu as Festival Announces New Funding

By Patrick Coffee 

Earlier this week, a judge in the New York State Supreme Court effectively ended a weekslong legal fight between the organizers of Woodstock 50 and Dentsu Aegis Network’s events division Amplifi Live.

Judge Judge Barry Ostrager ruled that, contrary to claims made by lawyers hired to represent the Woodstock organization, the $17.8 million amassed by Amplifi to fund the festival belonged to that company in accordance with the initial contract between agency and client. He also determined that Amplifi had exceeded its authority in announcing last month that the concert would be cancelled, a decision that marked a victory for the advocates of peace and pop music.

Earlier this month, attorney Marc Kasowitz, who has represented celebrity clients including President Donald Trump, asserted that Amplifi had “misappropriated” the funds, while a letter to Dentsu global CEO Toshihiro Yamamoto from Woodstock organizer Michael Lang accused the company of “illegally [sweeping] approximately $17 million” from the shared bank account.

That means Dentsu will no longer be funding the event. Today, Woodstock 50’s PR firm announced that investment bank Oppenheimer & Co. has signed on as financial advisor to complete financing. It stated that “Event preparations will continue as planned as Oppenheimer joins the list of strong institutions producing the festival.”

“We are thrilled to be onboard for this incredible weekend of music and social engagement,” read a quote from John Tonelli, head of Debt Capital Markets & Syndication at Oppenheimer & Co. Inc, who said the company “[believes] in Woodstock as an important American cultural icon.” Lang added, “Words cannot express how appreciative Woodstock 50, the artists, the fans and the community are to Oppenheimer for joining with us to make W50 a reality.”

So while the case has not been closed, it would seem that Dentsu’s relationship with the organization is essentially over. But that doesn’t mean the fight is done.

After the Supreme Court ruling went public, Woodstock 50’s PR firm Sitrick & Partners issued a new quote from Kasowitz to publications that had run related stories, including Adweek.

“In its public statements, Dentsu has shown utter contempt for the Court’s decision, and continues to show utter contempt for the Woodstock 50 Festival,” said Kasowitz. “The Court unambiguously ruled that Dentsu had no right to try to assert control over the Festival in Dentsu’s efforts to cancel it. Indeed, Dentsu and its affiliated companies are explicitly enjoined from suggesting that there has been a cancellation or interfering with any of the Festival stakeholders. Nevertheless, Dentsu has decided to disregard the Court’s clear directive and suggest that it still has the right to kill the Festival. Dentsu is dead wrong and Woodstock 50 is proceeding as planned.”

Kasowitz’s assertion seems to contradict Amplifi Live’s own statement. Following the ruling, which found that the original contract’s Control Option “does not provide Amplifi with the right to unilaterally cancel the Festival,” a spokesperson acknowledged that the agency “cannot cancel the festival without Woodstock 50’s agreement” as per its announcements in April but stated that it did not intend to further invest in the event.

Amplifi Live declined to elaborate on that quote. Expect the fight to continue in some form, however the August concert ultimately unfolds.