Zagreb Wants Its Stones Money Back

The man charged with sorting out the financial mess at Zagreb Concert Management (KDZ) is prepared to take legal action to recover the euro 100,000 the company paid the now bankrupt Rock & More as a commission on a canceled Rolling Stones show.

The publicly funded company made the payment April 14th, about a month before the act’s July 5, 2006, show at the city’s Maksimir Stadium was pulled to allow Keith Richards to recover from head injuries he received after falling out of a tree on vacation in Fiji.

Rock & More Veranstaltungs Gm, which would have overseen the Zagreb show, tanked in Vienna bankruptcy court in December, although Heimo Hanserl and Wolfgang Klinger are now operating a new company called Rock & More Beteilegunts.

Dr. Susi Pariasek of Pariasek Holper, the bankruptcy lawyer who’s sorting out Rock & More Veranstaltungs Gm’s affairs, hasn’t yet determined how much the company owes.

Klinger is on record saying euro 1.5 million of it is down to money the company is owed by promoters in Croatia and Bulgaria.

Davor Zagar, who was brought in at the beginning of February to sort out the mess left by former KDZ chief Sasa Britvic, said retrieving the euro 100,000 is made more difficult by the fact it was paid to a company in Liechtenstein that says it’s holding on to it for a Zagreb Rolling Stones show slotted for July 9 this year. But Stones agent John Giddings of London’s Solo Agency said the act has yet to decide if it will tour in 2007.

Pollstar calls to the Liechtenstein company, Befra Finanz Und Beratungskontor AG, were answered by someone calling himself Zeljko Zlatko who flatly refused to discuss the matter unless he could do so in writing.

calls to the Liechtenstein company, Befra Finanz Und Beratungskontor AG, were answered by someone calling himself Zeljko Zlatko who flatly refused to discuss the matter unless he could do so in writing.

However, e-mails sent to the address on the company letterhead and to another address were not returned.

Britvic looks to have made a last-ditch effort to save his job, which he lost January 31st, when he started threatening that KDZ would take legal action to recover the money, but he kept getting stonewalled.

It’s the second time a Balkan promoter has tried to claw back fees paid to Rock & More for one of last year’s canceled Stones shows. Maxa Catovic of the Belgrade-based Komuna is chasing euro 200,000 commission he paid for a Belgrade show originally slotted for July 7, 2006.

Catovic originally made his euro 200,000 payment to secure a Stones show in August 2003, which had to be canceled because of the security clampdown following the March 2003 assassination of Serbian prime minister Zoran Djindjic.

He said Rock & More hung on to it until the act could schedule another Belgrade show, which wasn’t for three years. When that was also canceled he asked for the money to be returned, but the Vienna bankruptcy court declared the company "Insolvenzdatei" before he had any success.

Britvic sanctioned the euro 100,000 payment and made it to Befra under instruction of Croatian promoter Marijan Crnaric, who was working with Klinger as the local organiser.

That in itself was enough to have leading national papers including Jutarnji List and Novi List running stories pointing out that Crnaric still owed money to fans who’d bought tickets for a 2004 Metallica show he promoted that was also canceled.

The total amount, which Crnaric disputed, was said to be Kuna 660,000 (US$109,800) and the fans’ anger became so intense that the police were called in to protect box office staff who couldn’t repay the money until it came back from the promoter.

He’d also been the local promoter for the Stones’ 2003 show, which Giddings said was never confirmed, but hadn’t returned the ticket money he’d collected from being on sale for a couple of days before it was obvious the show wasn’t going to happen.

He was also involved in a ’93 Stones show, acting as a consultant he claims, with a promoting company called Kajda. It went bust owing punters money when that year’s Stones show was canceled due to the growing political unrest throughout the old Yugoslavia.

"Last year KDZ also paid Crnaric euro 20,000 to consult and give his advice on the viability of the Stones show, and he just wrote a very short report saying the city ought to break even if it sold 60,000 tickets," Zagar told Pollstar.

It hasn’t been possible to contact Crnaric since he was turfed out of the office space he had alongside Britvic in the KDZ building at Kneza Mislava 18.

Both of them, along with other former and current KDZ staff, are involved in a wide-ranging police investigation that’s focusing on misappropriation of public money.

It was launched last summer when Zagreb city attorney Zeljka Pokupec called in the cops, after Sandra Veljkovic – a journalist with the daily national Vecernji List – wrote a story claiming she’d had sight of KDZ’s 2004 audit and it shows money had been used to pay the wages of non-existent employees, make apparent cash payments to artists that never performed in the country and settle bogus claims for traveling expenses.

The city’s cultural department, which funds KDZ, is currently running on a debt of more than US$1 million.

It has since emerged that Britvic had paid out the Stones money to Befra and Crnaric – along with euro 180,000 on promotional expenses – from a US$ 2.2 million bank credit he raised on KDZ’s behalf, without having the city government’s authorisation – it would need to vote on an amount of that size.

This has led to Pero Kovacevic MP asking the city parliament to investigate what’s going on and calling for the resignation of city culture minister Dusko Ljustina, who allegedly gave his personal go-ahead for Britvic to raise the credit.

Zagar said the city is still keen to do a Stones show if one can be scheduled, but next time it’d prefer to deal with Giddings and that neither Crnaric nor Klinger will be working with the Zagreb government’s concert management company again.