Flat Baroque- Southeast- July 2003
In May, the orchestra's bankruptcy filing seemed about to write the Philharmonic's obituary and sent the ensemble's 80 musicians scurrying to look for other work. With orchestra openings scarce, many musicians thought they might have to pursue a career change.
"My guess is that three-quarters of the Philharmonic will find that they have to leave music," says Michael McClelland, a violist who has played with the orchestra for nine years.
Then, in early June, consultant Joyce K. Reynolds, CPA Richard C. Kendall and bankruptcy attorney Chad Pugatch stepped in with a plan to try to rescue the orchestra.
The three told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that their plan calls for a "streamlined, fiscally responsible, (and) newly inspired organization." Proving to the bankruptcy court that their plan is viable is the first of their challenges based on comments about why the orchestra failed in the first place.
Like other orchestras, the Fort Lauderdale-based Philharmonic struggled with lagging ticket sales, dwindling contributions and mounting debt. In recent years, its troubles spiraled through a musicians strike, the loss of its longtime music director and repeated turnover among managers.
Despite the number of orchestras in difficulty around the country, many of the musicians believe the Philharmonic's problems were local.
"The crux of the matter is really bad board leadership," says bassoonist Henry Skolnick, citing among other things, fluctuating fund-raising efforts that variously reported $20 million, $4 million or $500,000 as the amount of money needed to keep the organization afloat. Such things strained the Philharmonic's credibility among the area's deep-pocket philanthropists, Skolnick believes.
The musicians also fault the organization's marketing efforts. "The Philharmonic never made itself socially relevant to south Florida," says McClelland.
Executive Director Trey Devey, who had been brought in less than a year ago to try to save the Philharmonic after overseeing a turnaround of the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, says all of those things are probably true. Big changes are needed throughout the industry, which he says is suffering from a management crisis that went unnoticed when the economy was strong.
"This industry needs to look in the mirror," Devey says. "The management that exists in this field is terrible."
IN THE NEWS
Belle Glade -- A West Palm Beach jury ruled against thousands of sugar cane cutters who sued the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida alleging they'd been cheated out of millions of dollars in pay.
Boca Raton -- Short-haul railroad company RailAmerica (NYSE-RRA) has rescinded an offer to acquire New Zealand freight carrier Tranz Rail Holdings.
Interim director of the Florida Atlantic University Foundation, David Lowe, told the Palm Beach Post that despite a barrage of negative publicity over how the foundation has spent its money, fund raising is actually up -- almost 15% from July 1 to April 25, compared with the year-earlier period.
Broward County -- A federal grand jury has added an additional charge of racketeering to corruption charges already filed against Broward union leader Walter Browne, the Miami Herald has reported. Browne is accused of taking money from companies whose employees were later involved in union-negotiated contracts.
Davie -- Pharmaceutical maker Andrx (Nasdaq-ADRX) has settled with the Securities and Exchange Commission for $100,000 in civil penalties for alleged accounting improprieties.
Fort Lauderdale -- Thoracic surgeon and Florida Medical Association President Robert Cline has announced plans to close his surgical practice to all but emergency care in response to spiraling medical malpractice premiums.
Hallandale Beach -- The Internal Revenue Service has charged five tellers at the Hollywood Greyhound Track with conspiring to defraud the IRS for allegedly helping a man cash tickets for gamblers who wanted to avoid reporting their winnings.
Hollywood -- The long-vacant Hollywood Fashion Center will see new life under the redevelopment plan of Weston-based real estate company Millennium. The company says it is planning an "upscale discount shopping and family entertainment center."
The Seminole Tribe of Florida has elected Mitchell Cypress chairman. Cypress replaces James E. Billie.
Plantation -- Sports collectibles company Dreams Inc. (OTCBB-DRMS.OB) has sued basketball star Shaquille O'Neal, alleging he didn't live up to the terms of a deal that, among other things, required him to sign a specific number of souvenirs.
Port Everglades -- County commissioners have taken back control of a 97-acre section of Port Everglades, terminating the lease of Flagler Development and negotiating three new deals for the property. The county expects to reap about $1.1 million in new cargo tariff revenue from tenants Home Depot, Toyota Tususho America and Chiquita Fresh North America.
Stuart -- Former St. Lucie County Commissioner Judy Culpepper has stepped in as interim executive director of the St. Lucie County Chamber of Commerce. Former Executive Director Al Rivett has resigned for personal reasons.
Wellington -- A 22-acre shopping center development in front of the Mall at Wellington Green is scheduled for completion in August. Fort Lauderdale-based Gertz Builders & Developers is building the 133,000-sq.-ft. center.
DOWN TO THE WIRE
WEST PALM BEACH -- Contractor Clark Construction has assured county commissioners that the $83.7-million downtown convention center will be completed just in time for the first scheduled show in November. Commissioners have been unhappy with the pace of construction on the 350,000-sq.-ft. facility.