Venue Manager, $154K Go Missing

A Bakersfield, Calif., concert promoter is out $154,000 in ticket sales for two shows produced at the

ICON Concerts alleges that not only did the ticket sales from two sold-out Jeff Dunham shows May 11-12 disappear, so did the owners of Bob Bender Productions with whom ICON worked to produce the concerts.

The former operators of the Fox vacated a three-year management contract after one year by mutual agreement in January, but continued to work as facility manager at the 1,540-capacity Fox Theater in the cases of some booking agreements that were made in 2016.

Those bookings included the Dunham shows and a

Castro said his company paid expenses for the show out of its own pocket when it was unable to recover the proceeds, and turned the matter over to the Bakersfield Police Department for criminal investigation.

Jeff Dunham
Jim Hill
– Jeff Dunham
Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids, Mich.

“As the venue’s agent, Bob Bender and [Bob Bender Productions] was responsible for receiving and holding all revenues and proceeds from ticket sales for the shows,” ICON attorney Jeffrey Wise said in a statement provided to Pollstar. “As the fiduciary agent holding the funds, Bender was to disperse those funds at the conclusion of the shows to pay outstanding costs of the shows, including rent for the theater, and remit the remaining funds to ICON.

“At the conclusion of the shows, Bender failed to remit any funds to ICON or to otherwise account for said funds, and has failed to respond to inquiries for such.”

Wise takes the accusations against BBP a step further, suggesting the Fox Theater Foundation was aware of previous issues with Bender’s handling of promoter funds.

“During a meeting the day prior to the first of the two Dunham shows, when Fox first informed ICON that they were previously aware of the problems with Bender’s handing of promoter funds and requested that ICON not cancel the pending shows, the Fox offered to waive the rental fees and staffing costs of those shows if ICON did not cancel them. ICON is unaware if Bender remitted any portion of the collected funds to Fox.”

For its part, the Fox Theater Foundation referred to the issue as “an ongoing contractual dispute between two outside entities,” adding that it provides venue services only.

“ICON Concerts was previously informed that the Fox would be managing the operations and were required to sign new rental agreements with the Fox directly. At that time it was up to the promoter to explore all options,” the Fox Theater Foundation said in a statement.

“Ticketing for such shows was handled by third parties not affiliated with the Fox Theater Foundation. At no time did the Fox Theater Foundation or any of its Board of Directors ever receive any ticket proceeds to be paid to ICON by such third parties for the subject shows.

“It should also be noted that the Fox Theater has also not received payment for the venue and services provided during both of the Jeff Dunham shows.”

When reached by Pollstar, Bender said he was unable to comment and referred questions to his attorney, Kyle Humphrey, who was unavailable to comment at press time but did speak to local media.

“Things didn’t work out between two businesses,” Humphrey told KERO-TV. The Fox Theater didn’t lose any money, they weren’t out on a limb for this. So tying it to the Fox is a way to promote one party’s interest in adverse to the others.

“Sometimes business things just don’t work out and they [Bob and Debbie Bender] would never do anything to embarrass the Fox or disappoint people they’ve worked with for years intentionally,” Humphrey continues.

Both BBP and ICON have long promoted concerts and other events in Bakersfield including at the Fox, and Bender and Castro are both respected industry veterans. Bender, a Bakersfield native, had returned to Bakersfield from Nashville, where he’d worked for Curb Records and tour managed several top artists including Tim McGraw, LeAnn Rimes, Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band, and Billy Preston.

In the wake of the BPD investigation, Bob Bender Productions’ website has been taken down and, according to KGET-TV, the City of Bakersfield has moved to pull the company’s business license.

ICON and the Fox Theater both say they await the outcome of the police investigation before pursuing further legal action.