Woodstock 50 Sues Financier, Claims ‘Sabotage’ of Festival

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The organizers of the ill-fated Woodstock 50 event have sued international advertising and public relations giant Dentsu Group and certain affiliates for tens of millions of dollars, alleging that they are responsible for the “destruction” of the Woodstock 50th Anniversary Festival planned for August 2019.

The complaint, filed June 17 in New York state court, alleges that Dentsu induced its affiliate Amplifi Live to breach its contract with Woodstock 50 to produce the festival, and then to seize control of it in order to cancel the event which was to celebrate one of the most iconic cultural events of the popular music era.

The suit alleges that Dentsu proceeded to interfere with Woodstock 50’s contracts with performers and others, to defame Woodstock 50, and to damage its business prospects. Woodstock 50 seeks to recover the tens of millions of dollars in damages it suffered, in addition to punitive damages for what the suit describes as “the defendants’ outrageous misconduct.”

The lineup, announced March 19, 2019

The suit, filed by the New York City-based law firm, Kasowitz Benson Torres, maintains that Dentsu’s affiliate Amplifi Live had agreed to provide $49 million in financing to support the Festival’s production. In the run-up to the event, Woodstock 50 secured the use of Watkins Glen International raceway’s grounds, and signed up a lineup of talent to perform at the festival, that included legacy acts from the original Woodstock such as Carlos Santana and John Fogerty as well as Jay-Z, Miley Cyrus, Halsey, and Janelle Monáe.

The suit alleges that Dentsu and its affiliates — concerned that the Festival might not be as profitable as they had hoped — sabotaged the festival, unlawfully withdrew over $18 million of festival funds, and falsely claimed that the Festival had been cancelled.

On April 29, 2019, Dentsu Aegis Network, revealed the shocking news: “Despite our tremendous investment of time, effort and commitment, we don’t believe the production of the festival can be executed as an event worthy of the Woodstock brand name while also ensuring the health and safety of the artists, partners and attendees.

“As a result and after careful consideration, Dentsu Aegis Network’s Amplifi Live, a partner of Woodstock 50, has decided to cancel the festival. As difficult as it is, we believe this is the most prudent decision for all parties involved.”

The next day, April 30, festival organizer Michael Lang sent an email to would-be ticket buyers that read, in part, “Woodstock never belonged to Dentsu, so they don’t have a right to cancel it.

“Woodstock belongs to the people and it always will.

“We don’t give up and Woodstock 50 will take place and will be a blast!”

The June 17 announcement states that Dentsu then prevented Woodstock 50 from proceeding with the Festival by wrongfully attempting to claw back festival funds paid to talent and other vendors, convincing those festival partners to abandon their business arrangements with the festival. Further, Dentsu, weaponizing its vast media network, launched a massive disparagement campaign against Woodstock 50, falsely spreading the word that the festival could not be staged safely and successfully. Months later, Woodstock 50 was unable to raise alternative funding and obtain a permit to stage the festival.

Related: Our recap of the whole debacle – No Peace. No Love. No Music.

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