Phila. Orchestra gives new contract to Allison Vulgamore

Posted: February 29, 2012

The Philadelphia Orchestra Association has signed president and chief executive officer Allison B. Vulgamore for three more years. Vulgamore, who took the helm of the troubled orchestra with a two-year contract starting in 2010, will remain its leader through Dec. 31, 2014, according to a proposed deal filed Wednesday and subject to approval by U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

"We have a contract and we're delighted," said orchestra chairman Richard B. Worley. "We thought it was a fair and reasonable contract that gives us a chance of keeping her for three years and working productively." An orchestra spokeswoman said Vulgamore was unavailable for comment.

The pact is similar to the one that is expiring. Vulgamore will be paid an annual base salary of $450,000 - but with a list of extras that sweeten the deal considerably:

A "performance-based compensation" cash bonus of between $50,000 and $150,000 per year, though the chair of the orchestra board has the discretion to increase the maximum bonus to $175,000 if warranted by Vulgamore's performance and a "significant" improvement in the orchestra's financial condition.

A retirement contribution of $125,000 per year, less applicable withholdings.

Up to $15,000 per year for supplemental disability insurance.

"Executive health benefits" of up to $10,000 per year for costs not covered under the group plan.

A car allowance of $5,000, free parking at the Kimmel Center, four weeks' vacation, and $2,000 a year to pay a financial planner.

In comparison to figures in past tax filings for other major U.S. orchestras, Vulgamore's compensation puts her about the middle of the pack among colleagues.

In addition to compensation under the new contract, she will receive $50,000 by June 2012 as part of an earlier bonus program for which she had not yet received payment.

Vulgamore became president during a period of unprecedented upheaval at the orchestra. She was in place for the signing of a new music director, Yannick Nézet-Séguin; negotiation of a labor deal with deep cuts in compensation for musicians; an organizational split from Peter Nero and the Philly Pops; negotiation of a new lease with the Kimmel; and, on April 16, 2011, the orchestra's filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Worley said Vulgamore, like the musicians, had received a cut in compensation.

"She is at a substantial reduction," he said. "Proportionately, I believe it is the same as musicians have taken." Vulgamore's base salary and benefits (retirement, car allowance) in her new contract are about the same as the old, according to court documents. What Worley says Vulgamore gave up - in consideration of the orchestra's financial condition - were previous scheduled raises and bonuses.

"She is being paid and has been paid for two years below what her contract would have called for," he said.


Contact Peter Dobrin at 215-854-5611 or pdobrin@phillynews.com. Read his blog at www.philly.com/artswatch.

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