[Dixielandjazz] Founder of Newport Jazz Festival puts production company up for sale

Mike C. denvertbone at gmail.com
Sat Jan 27 22:28:40 PST 2007

Impresario George Wein, who brought jazz out of smoke-filled nightclubs 
to mass audiences by founding the much-imitated Newport Jazz Festival 
more than 50 years ago, says he has sold his production company, which 
puts on music festivals from New York to Tokyo and Paris. Wein has also 
partnered with Saratoga Performing Arts Center since 1978 to produce 
SPAC's annual jazz fest.

"I'm concerned with preserving my legacy and, at my age, I'm still 
working as hard as ever, but it was more difficult to find the funding 
necessary to guarantee the future of everything we're doing," Wein, 81, 
said in a telephone interview Thursday.

Wein said he had sold his company, Festival Productions Inc., to The 
Festival Network LLC, a new New York-based entertainment production 
company. The price was "in the millions," he said.

Wein said he became concerned about the future of his company and its 
festivals as he grew older. Joyce Wein, his wife of 46 years, died in 2005.

He said he had been approached several times during the past decade 
about selling his company.

The new owners assure him that the sale won't cause any major changes in 
the near future in the sponsorship or programming of the 13 to 15 major 
festivals his company produces annually, he said, including the JVC Jazz 
Festival in New York and the Newport jazz and folk festivals.

Marcia White, president and executive director of SPAC, said she 
believes SPAC will not be affected by the sale, and that the 
amphitheater will continue to work on future jazz festivals with 
Festival Productions under its new ownership. A company representative 
will be at SPAC on Wednesday, Jan. 31, when the venue announces details 
of its 2007 season, including the jazz festival lineup, White said.

The deal does not cover the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, which 
Wein also founded and runs through a separate company.

"I think it is the beginning of a new chapter; I don't feel it is the 
end of anything," said Wein, who will stay on as chairman of the new 
company's Festival Productions division.

Chris Shields, the 36-year-old CEO of The Festival Network, said that he 
approached Wein about a sale and merger last spring and that the deal 
was finalized this month.

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