A Fight for the Music of Griffith Park

We Are The Greek Movement, Photo Randall Michelson

The fight for control of the Greek Theatre in Griffith Park, Calif. has another battle on the horizon, a public meeting set for Thursday, October 9 at 0830, Friendship Auditorium, 3201 Riverside Drive, Los Angeles, Calif. It's there, Nederlander, a family owned business that has run the Greek since 1976, could lose the venue after 39 years in November of 2015.

The challenger? Live Nation, a company spun off by ClearChannel / Bain Capital (read Mitt Romney) 12 years back that has become one of the nation's and world's largest concert promoters and venue operators. In order to compete, Nederlander aligned themselves with AEG Live, another family owned business (Anschutz Company is the parent of AEG).

So why now? And why the rush and the challenge?

Rena Wasserman, General Manager and Senior VP of Operations of Nederlander Concerts wonders the same.

"City processes are such that in Los Angeles on a large venue and contract of this nature the city felt a need to put out a Request for Proposal for Operations of the Greek. It was released on June 4th of this year, due by August 12. There were two proposals received: one by us along with AEG Live, our partner, and Live Nation," she stated. "The city hired a third party consultant to help them write the RFP and find evaluators to review and score the proposals," she continued.

So what's the allure? Is Live Nation offering more money?

"Remarkably our company did offer more cash, so that makes this decision even more interesting and one that needs to be unravelled to get at the real heart of the matter," she added.

In these types of dealings it has been my experience that if it's not money, then there's another self-serving reason for someone where politics is involved. So could there be more to this battle than meets the eye?

Mayor Garcetti's office to date has not responded for a request for comment nor has Live Nation. And many feel it may be too late, or a foregone conclusion. According to industry trade Pollstar Tuesday, 9/20/2014,"Live Nation was revealed as the winning bidder Sept. 26 on a Request For Proposals for a new contract, with related documents being made available for public review on Sept. 30, the day before the RAP board is to accept the recommendation to make the reward and begin negotiations on a new agreement."

When news got out, the community responded.

"Many in the arts community are in general very upset," Wasserman continued. "There are venues that go hand-in-hand with their operators, and the Greek is one of them. You can't say Greek without saying Nederlander. It's Nederlander that has brought the Greek again to be a world class venue over the last decade. You win Pollstar after Pollstar from the industry that votes for you. They realize the building doesn't run itself, that there are people behind it," she added.

A online petition with over 14,000 signatures took shape and according to the LA Times the neighbors are uneasy about the change.

Photo Robert Mora

"We have a nearly 40 year relationship with this community," Wasserman continued. The people that live in these multi-million dollar homes, or the people just down the hill in more modest housing knows that we are going to honor our commitments because of our history," she concluded.

So, the city delayed the decision until October 8, 2014. It is then they could award to Live Nation, Nederlander/AEG Live or table the issue again.

Two of those three are fine with Wasserman.

"The question needs to be raised what's the rush," she stated. "Have these proposals been vetted fairly. Could we get people from here, the entertainment capital of the world, to do the evaluations and go over the 3400 pages of documents with some thoughtful consideration," she said.

It's a mystery why the City of Los Angeles would choose to end a 39 year working relationship with a family-run business, AEG Live is no stranger to Los Angeles. They are behind the Staples Center and L.A. Live area downtown as well as the StubHub center in Carson, CA. Nederlander and AEG Live have a record in the area. LiveNation operates The Wiltern, House of Blues, Hollywood Palladium and other venues around town as well. One thing can be certain it seems in the battle of Wall Street versus family-owned, the city is fast-tracking Wall Street.

What will it mean for the Greek? No one, including Wasserman, really knows.

"We have 39 year relationships, standards, and an entire new proposal to generate even more revenues for the city and bring the Greek even further in to the 21st Century as a world class venue. What Live Nation would do with it has yet to be seen. All we know is what can be gleaned from the 3400 pages of documents," she added.

Either an era ends October 9, 2014, a closer look is ordered or there's a new name in town when it comes to the Greek.

One thing is for sure, Nederlander isn't going down without a fight.

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