Friday, June 1, 2018

Major Layoffs At Pollstar As Oak View Moves Trade To LA | hypebot

image from celebrityaccess.comOak View Group has just announced it is moving the headquarters of touring industry trade Pollstar to OVG’s Los Angeles office, and that founder Gary Bongiovanni will be leaving at the end of June.

CelebrityAccess has learned that layoffs are plentiful (“just about everyone,” according to a source) and has learned the names of some of the individuals but will not report them – however the layoffs affect at least the graphics department, executive staff and subscription sales.

Pollstar’s editorial will be run out of Los Angeles (but that has been the case since November) and the sales operations will remain the same (but much of the sales had already shifted to OVG’s sales department, especially regarding the Pollstar Live! conference) Word is that only one person, Steve Martineau, was left on from the ad sales staff. 

Billboard's Bob Allen Joins Staff

As had been anticipated, Bob Allen, former manager of Billboard Boxscore, has joined OVG’s Media & Conferences division (how this affects the traditional Pollstar boxoffice department run by Brad Rogers – spelled “Rodgers” in OVG’s press release – and Chad Ivie is not yet known). Jon Guynn has also joined OVG as VP of operations (and was in on the exit interviews).

Staff is also expected to be added to Pollstar’s London office and, apparently whatever the New York office is (OVG has just announced that it has an office in New York).

Pollstar entered into an agreement early last year to be bought by OVG. It was about time: the two earliest members, founder Gary Bongiovanni and COO Gary Smith, have operated the company for about 35 years, building it from scratch to a multimillion-dollar company with two-score employees, but both have reached retirement age. The sale was touted to the staff as a great way to help out the employees as the two men left – building rather than reducing the company with the funding of a company tied to worldwide facility management and ties to Live Nation and Azoff MSG Entertainment, with talks of advancement within the OVG system from Los Angeles to Japan (or, at least how this reporter recalls it).

Gary Smith, who just recently was named CEO of Pollstar by its board of directors, will remain on in an “executive advisory capacity.”  Smith has had a contract to work at Pollstar for several more years. Bongiovanni, however, who began the company about 35 years ago literally on his kitchen table, will move on to a well-deserved retirement (known in the business as a “consultancy role”). With him goes one of the best-educated individuals in the music trade world.

Moving operations to Los Angeles could have a major impact on the Pollstar staffing that was not laid off today. The company built itself with local talent. In fact, few people realized that the company was in Fresno. Yet, it had humble beginnings. Bongiovanni developed the concept while a student at Fresno State, booking shows for the yearly festivities known as Vintage Days, before becoming an agent for Jerry Heller and a promoter for Avalon Attractions. One of the first properties he got for Pollstar, alongside Gary Smith, was a small office above a Radio Shack on Blackstone Avenue.  It moved forward to a larger office in south Fresno before finally settling at its current location more than 20 years ago – a large building that is owned by Pollstar. Throughout it all, Pollstar was known as a company that cultivated local talent for its staff and encouraged long-term employment.  Those who met the staff of the Concert Industry Consortium, then the Pollstar Live! conference, were interacting with the same staff that kept the Fresno office running. Until now, a move to Los Angeles, relocating staff away from the low-cost living of Fresno, was unnecessary for a business that operated mainly on phone calls and fax machines.

In other words, coming along for the ride were several local employees who rose in the ranks, building experience along the way, but many have homes and families in Fresno and would be reticent to move to the Los Angeles climate nor the corporate atmosphere of the OVG office.

The OVG statement says, “These changes … will necessitate staffing transitions and reorganization. Pollstar’s editorial, technology, and box office staff, the latter two led by CTO Dan Martin and Box Office Manager Brad Rodgers (sic), respectively, will remain largely unaffected, as will Pollstar’s London operation.”

The staff is about 50 and, with some moves to Los Angeles, the overhead of the Fresno office could be untenable. At press time, word is that of the 50, about 12 will remain on the OVG payroll and the rest, at 1 p.m. on a Thursday afternoon, are already having an early happy hour.

It’s hard to say what will happen with the office, filled with hundreds of concert posters submitted for Pollstar’s annual poster contest, if so many people are not going into it tomorrow.

The good news: the press release touts that Pollstar now has a daily newsletter.

Last summer, Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke came to the Fresno office to talk to the staff. “First and foremost we’re buying the company,” he told the staff. “Second, because I know this is the No. 1 question I’d have if I were you: We’re not moving the company. The company will stay in Fresno. You will all continue to work at this company and we will continue to grow the company.”

Clearly there was a time limit.

Joe Reinartz, the author of this news report is the former news editor of Pollstar.

From Joe: "Yes, former employees have called. Most conversations will be kept private and they sure aren’t happy but one interesting point was that neither of the Garys were at the announcement today by Ray Waddell – OVG’s head of stuff and things – but also claim surprise at this. Nothing has appeared to have changed regarding editorial – and, that’s cool."

- CelebrityAccess


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