Amid orchestra’s contract talks, lessons learned after the wolf’s been chased away

July 4th Louisville orchestra
Music Director Teddy Abrams leads players during a July 4th concert at Waterfont Park.

By Jim Hopkins
Boulevard Publisher

Louisville Orchestra‘s 2011 bankruptcy recalls one of the morals from Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” — let down your guard, and you may get gobbled up. Back then, the ensemble had grown overly reliant on a relative handful of backers, missing signs their generosity was about to dry up amid the financial crisis.

“No one wanted to face the reality that one day support would end,” Jorge Mester, the music director at the time, told The New York Times for a story about a string of financial crises roiling orchestras that spring.

Now, five years later, the Louisville orchestra is on far more stable footing. Contributions and grants jumped 29% in the year ended May 31, 2015, bringing total revenue to $7.2 million, according to its most recent IRS tax return. After expenses, that left a $1.3 million surplus. The endowment rose about 3% to nearly $1.6 million.

Launched in 1937, the orchestra has about 170 employees and an energetic music director, Teddy Abrams, who started in 2014 after working as assistant conductor at the Detroit Symphony. Abrams, 29, is among a new vanguard of conductors hoping to attract a younger audience and a wider donor base to guard against another sharp downtown.

Against that backdrop, management and players have started negotiations for a new contract to replace one that expired last spring, according to The Courier-Journal. They’re not alone. From coast to coast this year, other ensembles have been in contract talks, too, amid a stronger economy that’s fortified players’ resolve to claw back wages and benefits lost during the financial crisis.

andrew-kipe
Kipe

The tenor of Louisville’s contract talks isn’t known because negotiators aren’t talking publicly. “The organization is still a bit fragile, and we are in the middle of planning,” Executive Director Andrew Kipe told the newspaper.

But a review of the group’s recent IRS returns, alongside contract talks at other orchestras, offers a glimpse at the fraught stakes involved. Continue reading “Amid orchestra’s contract talks, lessons learned after the wolf’s been chased away”

CJ top editor Budde is out, effective immediately; paper to ‘sharpen our focus on investigative journalism’

Neil Budde‘s abrupt resignation was announced this morning in an email to staff from Publisher Wesley Jackson, who didn’t provide an explanation for his departure. Budde, who is about 60, had been in the job since September 2013.

neil-budde
Budde

Budde leaves as the paper faces heightened competition from legacy rivals such as WDRB and from new ones: WFPL’s Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, and digital standalone Insider Louisville.

In his email, Jackson said: “We will sharpen our focus on investigative journalism and the urgency of all our coverage while doubling down on our goals of building new audiences and engaging them digitally.”

Jackson didn’t say whether any other staffing changes were in the works.

CJ owner Gannett Co. is ramping up efforts to coordinate news coverage among the approximately 100 dailies in the chain by having reporters from different sites work together on projects with a more national scope. The Louisville paper’s shakeup also comes as Gannett draws closer to buying Tronc, which owns the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and seven other big dailies plus 160 smaller weekly and monthly niche titles.

Jeff Taylor, the top editor at the CJ’s sister paper, the Indianapolis Star, will serve as interim editor while a permanent editor is found, according to Jackson.

Papa John’s serves up ‘one of biggest’ launches, and Wall Street smacks its lips

A news summary focused on 10 big employers; updated 8:49 a.m.

PAPA JOHN’S: Calling it “one of its biggest product innovations in a decade,” the company has introduced a pan-style pizza with an even greater emphasis on fresh ingredients. “Made from fresh, never-frozen pan dough with no artificial preservatives,” the chain said yesterday in a news release, “this crust features seven simple ingredients — a signature blend of flour and extra virgin olive oil, cold-filtered water, sugar, salt, yeast and oil.”

papa-johns-pan-pizzaPapa John’s is promoting the new menu item with a specially designed black box, and a new advertising campaign featuring retired Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt, and CEO John Schnatter. (See, above.)

Wall Street liked the news. The company’s stock (PZZA) jumped 3%, closing yesterday at $78.10, up $2.25. The rally continued after hours, with shares rising another 15 to $79.06.

Schnatter dumps another 86K Papa John’s shares; and U.S. economy added 156K jobs in September, weaker than forecast

A news summary focused on 10 big employers; updated 9:24 a.m.

PAPA JOHN‘s CEO John Schnatter continued unloading shares in the pizza giant, selling another 86,000 on Wednesday and Tuesday for $6.6 million, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. That trade followed Monday’s, where the executive sold 73,637, and are in accordance with a trading plan he adopted early last month.

schnatter-stock-sales

The chain’s shares closed yesterday at $75.41.

In other news, the economy added 156,000 jobs last month vs. a forecast 170,000, the Labor Department said. The jobless rate, meanwhile, rose to 5% from 4.9% in August, according to the agency (multiple news accounts).

Courier-Journal owner Gannett Co.’s bid to acquire Tronc, owner of the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and other papers, could wrap up in the next two weeks if all the due diligence now underway checks out, sources tell the New York Post. “There is no disagreement on price, but there is still some [work] to be done,” one source close to the situation told the New York tabloid (Post).

The Post report follows an earlier one at Politico, which speculated the deal could be announced as early as this week.

Papa John’s CEO unloads $6 million in company stock

John Schnatter
Schnatter

John Schnatter sold the 73,637 shares yesterday at an average $78.17 each, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing this afternoon. The trade left him with 10.4 million shares, and was made in accordance with a so-called Rule 10b5-1 trading plan he adopted Sept. 2, under which he could sell up to $36 million of stock.

With these trading plans, top executives typically sell a predetermined number of shares at fixed intervals to avoid any appearance of trading on insider information.