Philly Pops’ presenter cleared to exit bankruptcy

Posted: September 06, 2012

A reorganization plan for the presenter of the Philly Pops was approved Wednesday, clearing the way for the group to exit bankruptcy in about two weeks. Hearing no objections, Judge Eric L. Frank applauded lawyers for arriving at a plan with minimal litigation and wished the Pops luck.

"Now we have to sell some tickets," said Frank Giordano, president and CEO of Encore Series Inc., after the hearing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Pops presenter ESI was compelled to file for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 in April 2011 as part of the bankruptcy of the Philadelphia Orchestra Association, with which it was in the process of merging. A shift in power on the ESI board, however, resulted in ESI's using the opportunity to renegotiate its contract with longtime Pops conductor Peter Nero, as well as other contractual agreements.

Under the terms of a settlement, Nero will lead some concerts in the 2012-13 season, and conduct the Pops only occasionally after that. Other dates this season were to have been taken by popular conductor and composer Marvin Hamlisch, the lead candidate to replace Nero.

But Hamlisch died Aug. 6. His concerts will be taken by Michael Krajewski, principal pops conductor of the Houston Symphony and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Krajewski's role will go beyond conducting, ESI lawyer Stephen M. Packman told the court, helping the Pops to raise money.

Packman said the combination of Krajewski's presence and a season of "celebration and accolades" for Nero would boost ticket sales and subscriptions.

Packman said ESI was forecasting about $2.3 million in ticket revenue for the 2012-13 season, plus a fund-raising yield "markedly higher than in previous years." The Pops - whose annual operating budget is about $2.6 million - has traditionally leaned much more heavily on earned revenue than philanthropy. Now, Packman said, the board has been augmented with new members who are "going to hopefully contribute and hopefully help to fund-raise."

The last 17 months of court maneuvers have cost the Pops about $600,000 in legal and professional fees, Packman said, noting that those bills would be satisfied by a payment plan over several years.

As part of its bankruptcy settlement, ESI negotiated a reduction on its Verizon Hall rent with the Kimmel Center.

The Pops season opens Oct. 12 with Nero on the podium.


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

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