Austrian Whodunnit Unsolved

The fraud investigation into Wolfgang Klinger and Rock & More goes back as far as the breakup of the Austrian Promoters’ Group in 2002, and the list of people being questioned reads like a who’s who of the country’s live music business.

Richard Hoermann denies he’s the mystery informant that sparked the police probe, which began December 14 when the Vienna state prosecutor’s office received an "anonymous" letter that led staff to believe that the country’s financial laws may have been broken.

"I didn’t send the letter and I’m a little surprised that I haven’t been questioned because I’ve been told everybody else has," Hoermann said when asked if he knows why he’s the only of the five former APG heads the Staatsanwaltschaft Wien hasn’t hauled in for questioning.

"Maybe it was because I was actually managing director of the parent company [Libro Entertainment] and wouldn’t have appeared on the list of APG directors," he explained.

Klinger, Manfred Leodolter, Franz Bogner and Peter Froestl, all former APG directors, are among the 10 people the police have interviewed, as is former advisory board member and current Österreich Ticket chief exec Andi Egger.

Leodolter now has Vienna-based Show Connection and has recently promoted or co-promoted acts including R.E.M., Herbert Grönemeyer and Bon Jovi. Bogner heads outdoor specialist Wiesen Festivals, and Froestl runs MC Events & Musicpromotion, working closely with "Austropop" stars including Wolfgang Ambrose.

The state prosecutor’s list also includes Heimo Hanserl – head of both Rock & More companies – former Rock & More Beteilegungs (Rock & More 2) managing director Chris Dorrer and Manfred Trojer.

Trojer took over Rock & More Veranstaltungs (Rock & More 1) from Hanserl August 12, 2006, changed the company name to MT Veranstaltungs and then filed it for insolvency with estimated debts of euro 2 million October 27, just 10 weeks after he’d taken the reins.

Dorrer and Klinger quit Rock & More 2 in January, two weeks before new owners Vienna-based Lenox Management and Amsterdam-based Lavinia B.V. – who bought the company from Hanserl May 2007 – filed it for bankruptcy.

The last two names on the list are Susanne Froestl, wife and business partner of Peter Froestl, and – somewhat surprisingly – well-known Austrian actor and film director Paulus Manker.

Both Manker and his films have received various nominations and awards, although he’s been in the news more recently for successfully defending a slander action brought by a student living in the state of Carinthia.

Magister Gerhard Jarosch from the prosecutor’s office says he can’t comment on what connection Manker – often labeled the "enfant terrible" of Austrian cinema – could have had with any of the other nine on the list.

Egger told Pollstar that everyone involved with Klinger in any fashion over the last 20 years is under investigation.

Egger’s previous involvement with Klinger was a partnership in promoting company Rock Produktion, which was part of APG along with Artist Marketing, Music Promotion, Wiesen Entertainment, and PSI Music. The company tanked for about euro 2.5 million and was partly responsible for the collapse of the whole group.

Around the same time, parent company Libro Ag – which owned Libro Entertainment, a record company, magazines and 265 record and CD retail outlets in Austria – went down with debts of euro 436 million, then the third-largest bankruptcy in the country’s commercial history.

The Vienna Wirtschaftspolizei (fraud squad) was called in to investigate the disappearance of about euro 2 million from APG’s company accounts. An audit by corporate recovery specialists KPMG confirmed that amount as being missing.

Six months later in January 2003, the APG story took a macabre turn when Sylvia Picker – the company’s bookkeeper – died of what was diagnosed as a heart attack.

Further stories about her death said substantial quantities of alcohol, cocaine and painkillers were discovered in her blood stream.

In the spring of 2002 she was hospitalized with 16 stab wounds after claiming she was attacked by somebody who broke into her Vienna flat.

She raised the alarm by sending a text message to friends, who immediately went around and called for medical assistance.

The incident was reported by Kronen Zeitung newspaper, which claimed that despite the wounds and the story she had told to her friends, Picker did not report the matter to the police.

Jarosch says the current investigation is unlikely to be completed within a year, after which the state prosecutor will decide if anyone is to stand trial.

Klinger, who was a consultant for both Rock & Mores and has arranged the Austrian and Balkan legs of major tours for acts including The Rolling Stones, R.E.M., Sting, Genesis and Pink, says he’s done nothing wrong and the evidence against him is "not even hot air."