Sir Clive wins the battle of Carnegie Hall. But not the war.

Sir Clive wins the battle of Carnegie Hall. But not the war.


norman lebrecht

September 18, 2015

With the resignation of the chairman who suspended him in a row over board over board authority, Sir Clive Gillinson, the long-serving executive and artistic director, appears to have emerged triumphant from a brief and ugly battle over who runs the hall.

But it’s not over yet.

When Ronald Perelman took over as chairman from Sandy Weill in February, he announced he wanted changes – more rock music and contemporary culture, less of the classical stuff. Sir Clive, and the rest of the board, ignored him. Perelman was a billionaire. His job was to pay up and shut up, as his predecessor had done.

But he didn’t. Discovering that the executive director had failed to get board approval for an initiative he had set up with board member Len Blavatnik, Perelman suspended Gillinson and demanded legal action. The board failed to back him. Last night, Perelman announced he was leaving (he and Warner’s Blavatnik are longterm antagonists). Sir Clive, America’s highest paid classical executive (earning¬†$2,235,308 in 2013), appears to have won.

The battle, that is. The war is not over. No chief executive can ignore his board twice. Sir Clive, 70 next March, is on a warning. Perhaps on borrowed time.

carnegie hall interior

MEDIA NOTE: The NY Times was out of the loop on this story. Wall Street Journal broke the original story and WQXR had Perelman’s resignation. The old Grey Lady is asleep on the cultural beat, waiting to be fed by PRs.


  • V.Lind says:

    Does the NY Times still have a cultural beat?

  • Brian Hughes says:

    Perelman is convinced that his billions give him the right to bully Carnegie and its Executive Director. His major beef is due to an agreement regarding the Warner Prize, presented by an outside organization, and an individual who outbid him for control of Warner. He’s too busy fabricating conspiracy theories.

    By the way, Norman, here’s a link to the story from the “Grey Lady,” appearing yesterday:

    Better work on your facts.

  • PickledCabbage says:

    Why would the chairman want more rock music at Carnegie Hall? Doesn’t NY already have Madison Square Garden? Just want to be controlling and nasty.

    • William Safford says:

      The halls are empty a significant percentage of the year. Why not hold more non-classical concerts there in that down time? After all, everyone from Duke Ellington to Pete Seeger to The Beatles to Frank Zappa and the Mothers have played there in the past. As I wrote in another thread, I once heard Benny Goodman there.

  • Edgar Brenninkmeyer says:

    Another uncultured billionaire who thinks he is God and can bully around. Good riddance. A victory for culture.