Monday, August 1, 2011

What is Going on in Carmel? Director of Performing Arts Center Resigns After Signing New Contract

Inside Carmel's "The Palladium"
The Indianapolis Business Journal reports on the developments late Friday:
Steven Libman, CEO of the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, resigned late Friday afternoon—less than three months after his contract was extended through 2016.

Libman cited personal reasons in a meeting with members of the center's board of directors, said Frank Basile, vice chairman of the board. Basile will serve as interim CEO.

Libman’s resignation comes just ahead of Sunday’s ribbon cutting on The Tarkington, a 500-seat theater in the $175 million complex that also includes a 1,600-seat concert hall and 200-seat studio theater.

Libman was an independent consultant in California when he joined the center in September 2009. Previously, he ran the La Jolla Playhouse.
City officials seem genuinely confused by the timing of the resignation which took place just a couple months after he signed a five year contract.  Libman's explanation that the job required too much work makes no sense either.  Obviously, after spending one year on the job, Libman was well aware of the demands of the job and yet he signed the new contract anyway.

There is also no mention of Libman leaving to take another job.

One wonders if Libman at some point realized the Performing Arts Center is a white elephant and decided to run before his reputation is sullied by the inevitable coming public backlash.  Even though the Palladium sold out many performances and by all accounts had stellar attendance, the Center continues to lose millions.  The Center is propped by a $2 million annual taxpayer subsidy last year which may have to be doubled this year.  It is so bad that Mayor Jim Brainard, who generally supports taxpayer subsidies for businesses and is a big supporter of the Arts Center, is lukewarm on a bigger taxpayer subsidy.

When starting a new venture, a business will crunch the numbers to see what will make the venture profitable and what will leave it losing money.  You have to wonder if Carmel city leaders ever crunched the numbers with regard to the Arts Center.  Here they are, blessed with a new, popular facility, drawing great crowds, yet losing millions of dollars.  What happens when the newness wears off?

Of course, if Carmel city leaders would have crunched the numbers and made public the fact that the facility would always be losing millions, would the public have support its construction?  My guess is "no."


Gary R. Welsh said...

Paul, Whenever someone leaves a high profile job abruptly under circumstances like this, it's usually a personal transgression nobody wants to discuss publicly to save everyone concerned a great deal of embarrasment that is at the heart of the matter.

Nicolas Martin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nicolas Martin said...

You have offered tidy, but utterly unsupported, supposition. You do not offer evidence that "Whenever someone leaves a high profile job abruptly under circumstances like this [like what?], it's usually a personal transgression..." What you say amounts to malicious speculation.

Maybe he was pushed out because the budget cutting bloodbath has begun.

Paul K. Ogden said...

I think it's entirely possible what Gary says is correct. You pretty much have to point to a changed circumstance that would have caused him to suddenly change his mind. A personal transgression may explain it.

My explanation might not be valid because he may well have known the Center was bleeding money. Maybe he didn't know how much though.

Bottom line is nobody knows why he left. We do know though the Center is bleeding cash which should be of more concern to taxpayers.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Did you read the Star's story on his departure, Nicolas?

"The president and CEO for the Center of the Performing Arts resigned Friday afternoon, six months after the Palladium's opening and eight days before a gala to mark the opening of the center's Tarkington Theater.

Citing excessive time demands related to running the $150 million facility, Steven Libman exited two months after signing a five-year contract extension.

Libman's decision to resign was characterized as a surprise by Frank Basile, the vice chairman of the center's board who was named interim CEO; Eric Seidensticker, Carmel City Council president; and Doris Anne Sadler, the executive director of the Michael Feinstein Foundation at the Center for the Performing Arts.

"It comes unexpected and I'm a little confused and concerned," said Seidensticker. "He had just received a five-year extension on his contract. To get a phone call that he resigned puts a bunch of questions in my head."

Sadler said she learned of Libman's departure from Rollin Dick, chairman of the center's board.

"We were just told that it was for personal reasons," Sadler said. "They were not forthcoming in a more detailed explanation."

John Hughey, a spokesman for the center, said Libman gave his resignation to Dick at 3 p.m.

"After a great deal of reflection, I have decided to pursue other opportunities," Libman said in a statement issued by Hughey. "I have loved my tenure at the center, but the time demands have become enormous. I'm very proud of what has been accomplished and I know that the center has a very bright future."

Efforts to contact Libman were unsuccessful.

Libman earned about $225,000 per year, according to Basile, who said he was glad Libman had a positive experience during his tenure."

You quit a job paying $225,000 a year after signing a 5-year contract because of "excessive time demands?" The explanation is totally implausible and can only lead people to speculation that it's not real reason for his departure. Both Seidenstecker and Sadler were caught completely off guard by the announcement. That should tell you something.

artfuggins said...

The people of Carmel deserve this.