What’s up at the Met? The deficit

Peter Gelb has owned up to another bad year – a $22 million loss, the worst in history.

The deficit is 7% of total budget. Once before, in 1984, it was 10%. But in cash terms this year’s results are awful beyond precedent.

Ticket sales are down, donations are weak.

Gelb has not published the financial statement. He has leaked it to the New York Times.

Two questions need to be asked: has Gelb failed? Does he have what it takes to turn the Met around?

 

metropolitan-opera exterior

 

Meantime, Gelb is looking for someone to blame. He can’t blame the musicians or stage unions, since he agrred to their deal.

He could blame the public for not coming and the donors for not giving.

Who’s left to blame?

(Hint: President Obama).

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  • Hang on – those figures relate to 2013-14 when the Met was operating under the previous union agreements (negotiated by Joe Volpe I believe). You might not like Peter Gelb’s management of the Met but you cannot blame a loss in one year on his handling of labour negotiations which took place after that year had ended!

    • Actually, that cost was cited by the NY Times, acting as mouthpiece for the Met. You’re right John, I’ll delete it.

  • You know, you have to stop blaming the unions and start quarely blaming Gelb. The Board with little oversight has let him run amok. Sure the union is a large part of the expense. However, there has been a drunken sailor at the helm of the Metropolitan Opera, spending money in a frivilous manner for the time he has been there without real checks and balances. He is dazzled by the celebrity of Broadway Directors hired at great expense to produce in many cases overly expensive productions that don’t pan out and don’t lure seat buyers, subscribers, or additional donors. He spends enormous amounts of resources on projects like his inane brain child, Gallery MET that doesn’t sell enough to support itself. A personal friend of his runs it with a multiple six figure salary. You heard the appeal from the unions about the poppy field in Prince Igor. How about the police and private security expense Gelb had to fork over to run Klinghoffer at every performance? If he were a planner with a brain, he should have known that a production of this opera would have earned the ire of part of the City and there would be a large bill from the police for services rendered. There are just endless numbers of wasted dollars spent by this man which do not add up to a return on the investment. Start adding up all of these sort of silly expenses which could have been avoided and you get a huge savings. He continues to prove he can’t manage a business budget, he is not a skilled planner and now he’s desperate, having run by the seat of his pants for years and the proof is in the defecit. I would send him packing and get a businessman in there with experience, they can’t afford not to.

    • L’affaire Klinghoffer definitely deserves to be filed in the “What were you thinking drawer.”

      But many of Gelb’s counterproductive decisions are exacerbated by the economy. To quote Bill Clinton, “It’s the economy, stupid.” And, yes, Obama deserves part of the blame. The Met would be doing much better had we the thriving economy of the Clinton 90s.

    • @ Save the Met: “How about the police and private security expense Gelb had to fork over to run Klinghoffer at every performance? If he were a planner with a brain, he should have known that a production of this opera would have earned the ire of part of the City and there would be a large bill from the police for services rendered.” Agreed, a waste of money throwing it at police, instead of using it for education. I would have welcomed more foresight on all sides well before the staging of Kinghoffer, through the funding of public events, accessible to all, for information, history, debate, etc. etc. Saint Louis Opera has shown that such an approach works. They certainly did not have to spend money on police protection, as they spent it much more wisely on educating the public. The fact that this did not happen says as much about the Met as about New York. In addition, no one can deny that ticket sales for Klinghoffer went up as the protests against it backfired. So, at least with Kinghoffer, I suspect the numbers look not that bad. Let’s see how the remainder of the season develops.
      @ Brian: “And, yes, Obama deserves part of the blame. The Met would be doing much better had we the thriving economy of the Clinton 90s.” I respectfully disagree in saying that you left one name out: George W. Bush (manipulated by Misters Cheney and Rumsfeld). It was during the 43rd President’s two terms that the “thriving economy of the Clinton 90s” disappeared, leaving the 44th President with a considerable mess the moment he took office in 2009. Of course, we can discuss a lot of issues here, but I am not interested in that. One more thing: the 90s were the 90s, we have 2014 now – it’s a much different and much unsafer world than then, it’s the “post 9/11-world” so to say . It’s also the Not-really-post-Great-Recession world in which too many have to work too hard to make the ends still not meet (except for the fat cats in the Wall Street Casino, which is open for gambling again, just as it was before 2008). It is this skewed ecenomy that may well reveal itself even further in the tanking of great artistic institutions, even the Met. By the way: I would favor a production of “Götterdämmerung” not in the silly and obscenely expensive Lepage production at the Met, but in a no frills production (in the Lepage show costumes, that would be fine with me), on the steps of the New York Stock Exchange, which will in the end succumb to fire in a glorious immolation scene. And then the sea flooding it all in Hurricane Sandy style. Of course in world wide live HD transmission. Success guaranteed!

  • Blame not only Gelb, but the members of the Board who appointed him and were supposed to be monitoring him. Good management has a lot to do with the choices you make regarding the people you appoint.

    • The press release was sent out selectively. It was not received by Slipped Disc, or several other interested media. It is the Met’s habit to give the Times a head’s up, and the Times to report the Met unquestioningly. NL

      • No doubt!

        For some reason, James Jorden on his much-read blog “Parterre” constantly mentions and criticizes Slippedisc, and in the nastiest way.

        About the Met press office, it is too bad they don’t see the need to cooperate with blogs. Maybe the recent change in staff will make them more current.

      • A press release sent out selectively and claiming it was leaked are two very different things. If I were the Met I wouldn’t cooperate with blogs who publish erroneous information.

  • Well, the deficit is at least one thing that NL pin on James Levine—until he realizes that the cost of re-doing of the pit to conform to the route of Levine’s motorized wheel-chair had to have made all the difference. I’ll be waiting for that.

  • Can we stop with this Gelb circus?
    If you knew how these organizations work, you would know that the board is in control of EVERY major decision. And the board has the right to remove Gelb.
    Are we afraid to blame the board? After all, they each have to give a significant sum just to have a seat on the board. And they are responsible for raising the many millions to run the non-profit.
    I get it. Can’t blame them. So it must be Gelb’s and Henson’s fault. These guys are front men! They are there to take the fall when the board’s decision is unpopular. And that’s why they are compensated accordingly.
    Executive Dr/Presidents are a victim of the times and the board.

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