What it cost Minnesota to fire the orchestra’s boss

What it cost Minnesota to fire the orchestra’s boss


norman lebrecht

August 01, 2017

Drew McManus’s rankings of orchestral pay reveal that it cost the Minnesota Orchestra more than a million dollars to get rid of the manager that woefully mishandled its 15-month lockout.

Michael Henson arrived from England, where losses incurred by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, which he managed, were quietly covered by the Arts Council. He replaced another English manager, Tony Woodcock.


Henson was ill-equipped to handle a full-blown US orchestra dispute and quickly lost the battle for public opinion by refusing to acknowledge the role that social media were starting to play.

When the board back down from the confrontation, they wanted Henson out. So did the music director. It cost the orchestra, Drew reckons, a settlement to Henson worth $738,805 – part of a total pay award of $1,048,686.

‘That is the single largest buy-out of a CEO I’ve ever seen in the field,’ says Drew.

Henson has not worked again in orchestra management.



  • MWnyc says:

    I expect some donor(s) gave the extra money to buy Henson off, glad to be rid of him and to avoid an ugly lawsuit that would be heavily covered by the press.

    I like to imagine that the donors were Richard Davis and Jon Campbell, the two bank executives and former MinnOrch board members who worked in tandem with Henson to nearly destroy the orchestra – and (I like to imagine) that they gave the money to buy Henson out to keep unflattering info about themselves from becoming public during an ugly lawsuit.

    • Amy Adams says:

      That’s comforting, to imagine US Bank executive Richard Davis footing all or much of the bill….his base salary last year was reported at 1.3 million, and his own total compensation package much higher than that.

      By all accounts, the workplace culture at the Minnesota Orchestra is a complete turnaround now that Henson is gone. Kevin Smith deserves a great deal of credit for this, not to mention the community which rallied around the musicians…not to mention the firmly united musicians themselves, who just happen to be currently playing at the top of their game.

      Good riddance to bad rubbish.

  • Anthony Boatman says:

    Just another costly Brexit.

  • Michael Dabroski says:

    Henson’s a punk and amateur. I can deliver that orchestra at a fraction of cost and create new audiences. Wake up. Follow http://www.vermontmozartfestival.org. The 2017 archive will be published shortly.

  • MacroV says:

    Probably worth it. And maybe even fair, if he was implementing an ill-conceived strategy by the board that hired him.

  • William Safford says:

    But…but…but look at all the money he saved the orchestra!!! Look at all the good will he created! *cough*

  • Adam says:

    That loser will never again work for another orchestra in the US or anywhere.