Philadelphia Orchestra to seek bankruptcy protection

PHILADELPHIA Mon Apr 18, 2011 4:25am EDT

Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice plays the piano during a performance with the Philadelphia Orchestra in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, July 27, 2010. REUTERS/John Randolph

Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice plays the piano during a performance with the Philadelphia Orchestra in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, July 27, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/John Randolph

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - The Philadelphia Orchestra, one of the nation's "Big Five" symphonies, voted on Saturday to seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, a board member said.

The 55-member board of directors approved the move, with the only opposition votes cast by five board members who are musicians, said John Koen, a cellist and board member.

The vote to take the orchestra, founded in 1900, into bankruptcy took place in a law office where musicians in the lobby played Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings, often performed at funerals.

"It's very devastating," said Koen, who is also chief bargainer for the Philadelphia Musicians Union, which represents the players. "We're very disappointed."

Board chairman Richard Worley was not immediately available for comment.

In Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, the debtor usually remains in control of its business operations, but is subject to the oversight of a bankruptcy court during reorganization of its business. Typically, some but not all debts are repaid.

The Philadelphia Orchestra's reputation blossomed under the leadership of the legendary Eugene Ormandy from 1936 to 1980.

It is considered one of the five most accomplished symphony orchestras in the United States, along with the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Cleveland Orchestra.

The orchestra's decision to seek bankruptcy protection is the latest sign of the toll the tough economy is taking on some symphonies challenged by shrinking audiences, said Jesse Rosen, head of the League of American Orchestras.

The Philadelphia Orchestra said in a statement it has $46 million in costs, with just over $31 million in revenue. (Editing by Barbara Goldberg, David Bailey and Todd Eastham)

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