Founders Fight Over Exit Strategy

The owners of Serbia’s Exit Festival were expected in a Novi Sad court February 5th to fight over who’ll be running this year’s event, while promoter Maxa Catovic wants to take it off their hands.

Bojan Boskovic, Ivan Milivojev and Dusan Kovacevic founded the festival in 2000 to protest Slobodan Milosevic’s dictatorship, but – after disagreements over strategy and direction – Kovacevic has had little to do with it for at least a couple of years.

This year, however, he’s asked his lawyers at Kovacevic & Partners to re-establish his involvement and let the others know the festival may not go ahead without it.

Catovic, head of the Belgrade-based Komuna, was due to meet Kovacevic and his lawyers February 1st and believed they’d accept his offer to pay euro 200,000 per year or 5 percent of total income – whichever is the greater – for the next five years.

The stumbling block is that Boskovic and Milivojev, who were the first to be approached by Catovic, feel it would be wrong to sell it.

"Exit has grown out of the Serbian youths’ need to live, work and have as much fun as other youths anywhere in the world, and any attempt to make it a purely commercial event would be a betrayal of the audience and all people who’ve worked on it for seven years," Boskovic told Pollstar.

"We’ve already told our event partners that it’s a private dispute and will have no financial or operational bearing on our preparations for the upcoming festival, which are already well on their way. We’re looking forward to our best event to date."

Boskovic also said the dispute with Kovacevic has rumbled on behind the scenes for three years and stressed that he, Milivojev and the other organisers would rather have kept it private.

However, the February 5th court case and Catovic’s bid to buy the festival look to have made that impossible.

Nick Hobbs from Istanbul-based Charmenko, which books Exit’s international acts, said he’s been aware of the behind-the-scenes disagreements for at least a couple of years.

"It’s rumbled on without ever affecting the work I do for the festival and, to be honest, I don’t envisage it affecting anything this year.

"If I thought it’d jeopardize the festival happening or reduce the chances of the acts getting paid, then I wouldn’t be involved," he explained.

This year’s Exit is scheduled for July 12-15, with Basement Jaxx, Beastie Boys, and Robert Plant already confirmed.