Wein Sells Festival Productions

After more than 50 years producing some of the world’s most iconic music events including the Newport Jazz and Folk festivals, George Wein has sold Festival Productions Inc. to concert production company Shoreline Media, creating The Festival Network.

Festival Productions becomes a division of The Festival Network, with Wein as chairman. His current staff remains intact and under three-year contracts to the new company.

Not included in the deal is Festival Productions New Orleans, the organizer behind the city’s famed Jazz & Heritage and Essence festivals, of which Wein remains a partner.

The Festival Network is headed by CEO Chris Shields, an entrepreneur who founded Shoreline Media and has previously worked with Wein in business development.

Shields formed The Festival Network with Richard Sands, chairman/CEO of Constellation Brands, a holding company whose beverage brands include Corona beer and the Mondavi brand of California wines. Sands will be an investor and strategic adviser to the Network, according to the New York Times.

Wein tinkered with the idea of selling Festival Productions before, and came very close to making a deal with Robert Johnson of Black Entertainment Network. But a concern for the legacy of the Newport festivals caused him to reconsider.

"I’ve waited for years to find the right partner to guarantee a legacy in a lifetime of music, of which I’m so proud. Now I can’t wait to see what we can achieve together," Wein said.

The new company will be headquartered in Manhattan, with offices in Newport, R.I., and Los Angeles, and will produce 18 festivals this year with more than 105 days of music. It plans to rapidly expand its offerings in 2008 to include new festivals in "destination cities," Festival Network President John Phillips told Pollstar.

"The Festival Network will produce a whole universe of festivals including the many, many festivals that Festival Productions currently operates and produces, including those in the U.S., Europe and Asia," Phillips said.

"Festival Productions Inc. in New Orleans will continue to be run by the people who are running it now, including Quint Davis and AEG Live," he explained. "They’ll continue to produce those festivals as a separate entity."

The Network will also produce entertainment for major sporting events including the 2008 Summer Olympics Games in China and future Games in 2010 and 2012.

Though Wein, at 81, will no longer be the top festival officer in the new company, his presence will continue to loom large over the Network.

"That duality kind of sums it up," Phillips told Pollstar. "Diminished role, yes. Still the boss, yes."