Woodstock 50 Wins Damages In Case Against Backer Accused Of Defamation

By Andrew Magnotta @AndrewMagnotta

February 2, 2021

Japanese-owned firm Dentsu which pulled the rug out from under Woodstock 50 two years ago breached its deal with the event organizers with its actions, according to a previously-confidential arbitration panel ruling made late last year.

Dentsu has agreed to pay an undisclosed sum covering the damages but not unrealized profits from the ill-fated festival, Billboard reports.

Woodstock co-founder Michael Lang and his partners accused Dentsu and its investment arm Amplifi of sabotaging the 50th anniversary festival by announcing publicly in the spring of 2019 that the show was canceled. Lang says Dentsu got cold feet about its investment when it learned that the festival would need to be moved to a different location.

Last May, Woodstock 50 initiated an arbitration claim against Amplifi. In June, Woodstock 50 filed a civil lawsuit against Dentsu in the New York Supreme Court.

The arbitration case was settled in October, with Amplifi ordered to pay damages that were "significantly less than what [Woodstock 50] purported to spend on attorneys' fees," according to Billboard.

Dentsu later agreed to settle the concurrent lawsuit accusing it of tortious interference, defamation, business disparagement and conspiracy.

A spokesperson for Dentsu told Billboard that "the matter has been resolved to the mutual satisfaction of the parties." Woodstock 50 declined to comment.

Dentsu and Amplifi joined forces with Lang and Woodstock 50 in 2017, with the two companies pledging $49 million to put on the ambitious 50th anniversary festival, which expected at least 100,000 people at a site in Watkins Glen, New York.

Despite quickly amassing a heavy-hitting bill of both contemporary and classic artists, the production was plagued by delays, budget constraints and disagreements over the festival site.

The breaking point reportedly came when festival producer Superfly recommended that capacity be reduced to between 65,000 and 75,000 people. A Dentsu executive reportedly warned Lang that the company would "not lose any money like previous Woodstock festivals."

Weeks after Woodstock 50 paid millions to the talent in fees, Dentsu withdrew money it invested in the festival's account, announced it was exercising an option to take control and cancel the festival.

Lang immediately argued that Dentsu had no right to cancel the festival and a NY Supreme Court judge agreed, ordering Dentsu pay back the amount it had withdrawn from the festival account.

After missing a payment to Watkins Glen, Lang's team explored moving the event to Vernon Downs, New York, and later to a site in Maryland before ultimately giving up.

"We just frankly picked the wrong partner in Dentsu," Lang told Rolling Stone in August of 2019. "They didn't really understand the business. When the agreement went at the last minute of just being a backer to a co-producer, they had input into everything that we did. It just pretty much went off the rails from the beginning. They weren't cognizant of the timeframe for how these things have to get done and how much work has to get done."

Photo: Getty Images

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