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Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by Broadwaybob2 2012-10-03 23:35:10


I've yet to see one article where Mr. Sprecher owns up to his mistakes, takes responsibility and displays the attributes of a true leader. Instead, this situation has clearly become the "blame game". Articles on many Broadway sites read more like propaganda pieces trying to detach Mr. Sprecher from any wrong doing, squarely placing the blame on an alleged deceased investor, potential con man and anonymous email. Whether Karen Mason's statement was heartfelt or simply a favor to Ben Sprecher is irrelevant. Combined with very one-sided articles promoting Ben, this all stinks of PR spin.

And that's simply why I don't have much respect for Mr. Sprecher. Instead of manning up to a situation he created, his entire strategy is based on being defensive and deflecting blame. At the end of the day even if Ben was lied to and 100% innocent from any wrongdoing, he is still FULLY responsible for his neglect to Rebecca's best interests, the cast, crew and the property's other investors.

I've raised money for several Broadway shows previously. It's a must to conduct proper due diligence and research. To base 1/3 of your show's capitalization on such a shadowy figure is supremely irresponsible. He was short on money and time, so Ben put all his chips on black and at that moment relinquished control of his show. Unfortunately the "roulette wheel of life" came up red. As a savvy businessman, one is supposed to make well thought out decisions not take big gambles using associate's money.

A competent producer would have mitigated his risk and delayed the show, BEFORE any of this nonsense could have ever been allowed to happen. If he was missing money, Rebecca should have been delayed long ago instead of accepting such a risky proposition.

Instead, Ben has not admit to this or taken responsibility publicly. He's just trying to squirm his way in and out of the situation, presumably thinking he's saving face. However if I was an investor I'd never trust my money with someone of this nature. By the way, in life many people make mistakes and are forgiven. How you handle the aftermath of a mistake is often more crucial than the initial error itself.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by bobs3 2012-10-04 08:58:14


The only people who should be pissed off are the original investors and the cast and crew who are out of jobs. I was actually looking forward to seeing the show but I'll get over it.

There was a line in ALL THAT JAZZ where the producers announce that NY/LA has been "postponed" and one of the cast members mutters "I turned down a series for this."

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by PalJoey 2012-10-04 09:04:33


Wow. You're so smart. Maybe you should be a Broadway producer.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by everythingtaboo 2012-10-04 13:51:48


Thanks for joining us yesterday, Broadwaybob2, just so you can copy and paste your righteous indignation all over BWW.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by JoeKv99 2012-10-04 14:00:06


I was at Ben's home when he read this. Since then he's sat, looking out the window at the rain. Occasionally, someone rushes in to try to get him to talk to a bank, a creditor, the theater, the costume shop- he just gestures them away and sadly shakes his head whispering "Bob, Bob...."

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by Broadwaybob2 2012-10-04 15:15:08


You got it everythingtaboo. Anytime!

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by South Fl Marc 2012-10-04 15:16:13


A well written response.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by newintown 2012-10-04 15:23:32


The story is already tired.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by PalJoey 2012-10-04 16:17:09


That's a very eloquent letter.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by nygrl232 2012-10-04 16:21:25


Do the show off broadway. Rent a barn. Perform it on a cruise ship. Cram everyone into a blackbox theater. It'll be the new Rent.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by newintown 2012-10-04 16:25:30


I imagine that an Off-Broadway Rebecca would be much like an Amish elementary school production of Cats (although, now I've mentioned it, that sounds much, much, much more interesting).

The point is - without the spectacle, you just have nonsense.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by Jane2 2012-10-04 16:32:10


I think it's prudent to delete these posts of mine about Ben. I'm glad I posted them and that you guys saw them, but now I'm delegating them to post heaven! (or hell)

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by tazber 2012-10-04 17:05:57


Atta' girl, Jane!

I always wonder what people hope to accomplish by airing their dirty laundry here. I mean, it's good dish and all, but do they expect us to just take their word for it because they're the poster? It actually lessens their credibility, imo.

And even if Sprecher came on and gave his side of the story....so what?

Are we supposed to start some kind of anti-Sprecher Facebook petition?


But as gossip fodder it's delicious! So please keep ranting on.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by Mister Matt 2012-10-04 17:06:26


Did he get handsy with you, Jane? Show us on the Mrs. DeWinter doll where he touched you.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by Jane2 2012-10-04 17:12:46


Haha Matt! No, not to play coy I will mention it in factual terms.

It's best i delete!

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by Mister Matt 2012-10-04 17:25:09


That sucks. I think you would have sold the hell out of those Rock of Ages bustiers.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by Jane2 2012-10-04 17:41:11


buh bye, post!

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by Mister Matt 2012-10-04 17:54:09


I'm not surprised in the least. If I ran into you, I'd probably end up exiting the theatre with no memory of the last two minutes carrying a Forever Dusty bag containing a diaphragm and a box of Kotex wondering where the $40 in my wallet went.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-10-04 19:11:34


Good for you, Jane, on upholding the law.

(No snark here. I just thought that needed to be said.)

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by Jane2 2012-10-04 19:25:31


thanks Gaveston!

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by Caring Soul 2012-10-04 23:09:35


So he did not want to allow you to sell sexual paraphernalia at a sex show because of your age? Great Scott, your horrific nightmare makes the Rebecca fiasco pale in comparison.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by Jane2 2012-10-05 10:14:59


^ WHOOSH! What's that noise? It's my point flying right over your head.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by Wynbish 2012-10-05 10:17:37


Jane, I hope you don't mind if I use that quote in a future conversation in my life. If it's on here, I will give due credit.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by AC126748 2012-10-05 10:25:09


This entire situation has devolved into the theatrical equivalent of Monday-morning quarterbacking. No surprise there.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by Jane2 2012-10-05 11:27:47


Wynbish, why certainly. I myself stole it from someone else!

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-10-05 19:28:59


For the record, Jane, I didn't think your story showed anyone in a bad light. You pointed out that a proposed policy would violate the law and so the policy was discarded.

The story speaks to your credit, IMO, but there's no villain in it.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by TheatreDiva90016 2012-10-06 12:55:23


Darn, I wish I could have seen Janes original posts!

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-10-06 19:34:13


I sent you a PM, Diva. There was nothing mean or libelous in Jane's posts.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by Broadwaybob2 2012-10-06 21:02:16


At the end of the day, results speak for themselves. Ben couldn't get Rebecca up in London, now New York. It was a loser of a show. He gambled with his investor's money and lost them big.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-10-06 21:23:30


I don't think the day is over yet, bob. Plenty of litigation to come, it would appear.

(I don't know the show and have no opinion on its merits or lack thereof.)

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by My Oh My 2012-10-06 22:04:00


As bitter and jaded as I am over the acts of another producer on a beloved musical of mine since childhood, I've resisted the urge to segue into anger and denounce all producers. Go me! Yep.

Anyhoo, I know absolutely nada about Rebecca, except that it is based on a homoerotic film, with lots of innuendo on the older chick's sexual obsession with some younger chick. All of this I'm extracting from a very fuzzy, vague memory of a documentary I watched a decade ago and a smattering of postings here that have alluded to this musical's connection to the film I'm thinking of. I could be completely wrong, so feel free to correct.

Anyway, can't say anything about it, but I will say I do long for another musical not known around here and in the so-called "mega-musical" style to grace Broadway once again. Obviously, I also hope it's any good, lol. I know "mega-musical" is a dirty word around here, and Lord knows I dislike the term myself for the bad connotation unfairly tacked on, but I miss the way those shows made an already eventful evening in simply the act of attending a live performance, to something larger, that felt like a one-time thing. I miss that buzz in the air and that sensation you're before something and a group of artists that make that something come to life that goes all out to deliver a story to you as effectively as possible.

I know Rebecca was shaped in that style in mind and am saddened its producer has had so much trouble taking it to New York. I'd not be so sold on the charges of incompetence had this not happened to him before but twice? Any error or set of bad choices of this scale don't happen twice. I am convinced he isn't unethical and truly feels as if he was victimized, but we all tend to feel that way when more often than not, we had a lot to do with the way things turned out. Especially if they turned out the same way with the same person. It may not be a reason to hate on someone or to think them evil, but his incompetence is something he needs to accept if he ever intends to pull himself out of that and avoid those errors in the future.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by Broadwaybob2 2012-10-06 22:59:07


Agreed. Lots of incompetence by Ben.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-10-07 20:27:52


Aren't these judgments a tad premature?

It's easy to say with perfect hindsight that Ben Sprecher should have hired a PI to tail everyone who expressed an interest in investing in REBECCA, but is that really how business is conducted in the theater? Not in my experience. (To paraphrase the AP: "Maybe it should be, but it isn't.")

Getting anyone to invest in something as risky as a Broadway musical can't be easy. I doubt many producers risk offending potential investors by treating them as if they may be con artists.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by Broadwaybob2 2012-10-08 08:39:49


GavestonPS, no you don't hire PIs to trail prospective investors or treat them like "con artists". This is not perfect hindsight, it's about good business practices and common sense. There's a middle ground between doing no due diligence at all and going overboard with a team of investigators. That middle ground is called taking the time to educate yourself and doing the proper amount of homework, which any reasonable producer does.

It's incredibly foolish to base a third of your show's capitalization on anonymous investors. It displays an extraordinarily large and irresponsible appetite for risk or alternatively a great sense of naïveté. Either way it doesn't demonstrate the skills
of a seasoned or skilled producer.

And as for "middleman" Hutton, either Ben was incredibly lazy and didn't take the time to google Mr. Hutton for even the slightest due diligence. Or he did. In which case ignoring Hutton's history was a calculated move in desperation of lack of money and time.

Mistakes happen. People get scammed. The reason why Ben's reputation is taking a blood bath is because he didn't go through the standard and customary motions any responsible producer would. If he did, is there a guarantee this situation would never have happened? Of course not. But it would have significantly mitigated his risk and made him look a hell of a lot better now.

Again, he based one third of his show, the livelihood of an entire cast and crew as well as other investor's money on a financier who he never met or had any communication with. Furthermore it appears the "middleman" of the operation was a acquaintance of Ben's with a dodged history publically available for all to see on Google. If this doesn't reek of incompetence and a complete rolling of the dice, I don't know what does.

This entire post is of course assuming Ben is innocent of any "illegal" wrongdoing and rather only made unethical and irrational choices, which is what's being touted in the press. And yes they were unethical. He didn't hedge his bets but rather made insanely irresponsible and "dangerous" choices with other people's money at stake.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by Jane2 2012-10-08 09:13:15


"Darn, I wish I could have seen Janes original posts!"

I'll PM you Diva. It wasn't a huge deal, but it was discriminatory.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by PatrickDennis92 2012-10-08 11:15:29


What we don't know at this point is how hard Mr. Hotton tried in making Sprecher believe these people were real. Obviously, he should have fact checked-- I would have fact checked out of mere curiosity. If I knew I had a major backer like that, I'd want to be his friend. I'd want to hang out with him and take him pony riding and braid his hair. I would be $eeing future potential.

I have been trying to wrap my head around the potential reasons someone would do this, and I have developed a possible theory-- perhaps, since Hotton was due to receive a commission on funds he brought in, he genuinely intended to get financing for the show, and simply couldn't. Perhaps he intended to use fabricated wealthy identities and death of the big one to lure sweet little old ladies he knows into coming in to "save the show"? Perhaps he made up the people to keep Ben Sprecher and every other producer in NY from tapping his cash supplies for shows in the future?

I mean, we really have no idea... but I think it's within the realm of possibility that the con man wasn't just a lunatic who made people up with no benefit to himself in order to make Sprecher look stupid. Don't get me wrong, there are people who are just mean-spirited and want to ruin people's careers and see shows fail. We see crazy people like that pop up every now and then. But I don't think that was this. just my thoughts.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by AC126748 2012-10-08 11:18:26


Looks like he was duped.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by Kad 2012-10-08 11:49:50


When your biggest investor is allegedly a mulch-millionaire businessman with no presence what-so-ever on the internet, who then "dies" of a disease that people of such means simply do not die of anymore... you should be suspicious.

Yes, it is clear Sprecher was tricked. But, again... it doesn't look like it was particularly difficult. Hindsight is 20/20, I suppose, but I just don't see how any competent producer could've been deceived by the Paul Abrams thing.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-10-08 18:01:00


The reason why Ben's reputation is taking a blood bath is because he didn't go through the standard and customary motions any responsible producer would.

What are those motions exactly and are you sure they are consistently followed in the theater?

A 9/21/12 NYT article says Ben provided his documentation to the Shuberts as proof of "Abrams'" existence and that was sufficient. So the Shuberts were also fooled by whatever bona fides Hotton supplied to Sprecher.

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/21/rebecca-producer-claims-new-financing-is-lined-up-for-broadway-musical/


I don't doubt that this case will prove a lesson to everyone involved in financing Broadway shows, but it appears a number of people may have been relying on long-term relationships rather than due process. (Or else the due process documentation was particularly well faked.)

Kad, I'm not sure we know whether Ben became suspicious after the "death by malaria". August wasn't so long ago and he was obviously scrambling to make up the lost financing. Just because he didn't issue a press release at the time doesn't mean he didn't find the reported circumstances odd.







Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by Kad 2012-10-08 18:18:00


Considering Sprecher's defense of the production and procedure, I would say that any misgivings he had, he kept to himself.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-10-08 18:21:41


And no wonder, Kad! Look at the fallout!

I don't know when Ben began to realize the true extent of the problem, but August only ended 5 weeks ago.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by g.d.e.l.g.i. 2012-10-08 20:29:02


Here's a theory, and I'm just spitballing:

Like politics, the world of theatrical production makes strange bedfellows, particularly when one is striving to better their standing, move to Broadway, and bounce from the bush leagues into the majors. Ben Sprecher fell prey to the desire to succeed.

So when Mark C. Hotton came on the scene, maybe Sprecher did do his homework. He discovered that the guy was a basket case (people are either glowing or fuming about him, no in-between), that the government was investigating him on fraud charges. But Hotton was a Long Island stockbroker. People gave Bernie Madoff money. Sprecher must have assumed things would work out for the best, and he'd get the $4.5 million he was promised; on the other hand, maybe Hotton talked a good spiel.

BUT EITHER WAY... anybody who did their due diligence would sniff this guy out, and say, "No friggin' way is he going anywhere near an escrow account with my money in it, regardless of the enterprise." So, maybe at Hotton's prodding, maybe of Sprecher's own volition, Paul Abrams was born. Enough "proof" was produced for the Shuberts not to investigate too fully, and work continued.

Then, and maybe this ties into the bankruptcy claim filed by Hotton, the bottom fell out. Suddenly, the money wasn't there. "What do I do? What do I do?!" When you tell a lie, you have to tell a bigger lie to cover for it, no matter who is telling the lie. Maybe Hotton promises money will still be forthcoming, and Sprecher has to cover for him. Maybe Hotton sells Sprecher a line of bull. Either way the gist adds up to: Abrams is dead, but don't worry, there are three other people lining up to do this. We're all okay.

Suddenly, at some point after this, it becomes painfully clear the money will never change hands, never mind come through the door. Hotton is incommunicado, maybe running scared. Sprecher is left holding the bag, whether his hands are dirty or not.

The only part of this I haven't figured out is whether the anonymous email was completely imagined (another lie to excuse an investor who connected the dots and ran), or from Hotton or Sprecher, each with their own motives for trying to derail a runaway train.



Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by PatrickDennis92 2012-10-08 21:24:11


I might guess that the anonymous emailer was someone who either hated Sprecher or Hotton-- likely Sprecher. Theatre people tend to make strange and deranged enemies. Haven't we all seen crazy stalker like people come, seemingly from out of nowhere, to take down someone they hate?



Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-10-08 21:50:17


Do we know when the anonymous email was sent and how many people at that point knew or had reason to suspect that "Abrams" didn't exist?

Patrick is right that the theater tends to make strange enemies; but another possibility is that somebody thought something was fishy about financing for the show and decided to help the anonymous investor.

***

As long as we're spitballing, I wonder if the "unusual" (the word used by the TIMES) arrangement whereby Hotton received a commission from any investment monies he brought to the show isn't in part to blame here.

Was Ben less vigilant because he knew Hotton wouldn't see any money until the $4.5 million arrived in the show's accounts? (Even if Ben knew of prior fraud accusations agaisnt Hotton, so what? Ben was protected (he may have thought) as long as he didn't pay Hotton's commission before the financing was set.)

Did Hotton invent phony investors because he was protecting his potential commission while he scrambled to find real investors? (ETA I apologize to PatrickDennis. He made this very point above and I didn't realize I was merely repeating what he wrote. Seriously, Patrick, I am sorry.)

Did the scheme unravel simply because the opening had been scheduled and Hotton ran out of time?







Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by Broadwaybob2 2012-10-09 00:05:20


GavestonPS- Sprecher had a long standing reputation as a semi-reputable producer. As he has done business with the Schuberts before, they put full trust in him. This is not a situation where the Schuberts drank the same Kool-Aid as Ben.

The "motions" you go through in theater financing is doing basic research. Calling around town, gaining intelligence on prospective investors, getting references from others who have done business with them. I'm 110% sure all responsible and reliable producers do this.

Of course, you can try to find the tiniest inaccuracies with single sentences in my post to try to detract from the much, much larger picture.

No matter what, he based one third of his show, the livelihood of an entire cast and crew as well as other investor's money on a financier who he never met or had any communication with. Furthermore it appears the "middleman" of the operation was a acquaintance of Ben's with a dodged history publically available for all to see on Google. If this doesn't reek of incompetence and a complete rolling of the dice, I don't know what does.

And perhaps the worst is that Ben has yet to publicly take any responsibility. Someone not to be trusted. Instead he just tries to pass on the blame. At the end of the day his name was on the door which means he's accountable. Unfortunately none of the excuses he makes all day long will rectify his career, they'll just make him look shifty.




Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-10-09 01:21:05


B-bob, I swear I wasn't trying to pick at some inconsistency in your post. I was asking an honest question because in my experience, show business is often more show than business. It's also a business that runs on its own customs--often handshakes and personal relationships--practices that would be considered negligent in any other industry.

I've discussed the details elsewhere, but in 1975--when he was arguably the most famous Broadway producer after David Merrick and Harold Prince--I lent Alexander Cohen $40,000 (roughly $100K today when adjusted for inflation) of my boss' money on the basis of a Christmas Eve phone call! No promissory note, not even an IOU on a napkin.

My boss' exact words to me: "It's Alex. His word is good." Had that money not been repaid (it was) and we ended up in court, no doubt people would have thought my boss a fool; but that was how business was conducted in the theater at the time.

So I was honestly asking what are the customs that applied or should have been applied here? Not what can we all agree should have been done now that we know a hoax was in progress?

The theater is always looking for new investors, so it can't be true that every investor has a track record waiting to be discovered and vetted. As I wrote above, Ben's very arrangement with Hotton would seem to prevent such a hoax, if Hotton was only to receive a commission on financing he actually delivered.

The NY TIMES article to which I linked actually QUOTES a Shubert representative as saying Ben provided and they reviewed the due diligence documents on the mysterious "Abrams". So, no, they didn't just take Ben's word on the subject--though who's to say whether their historical relationship with Ben may have clouded their judgment?

As for Ben being "semi-reputable", that is news to me. I'm not doubting your word; as I said above, I haven't seen the guy in 30 years. But I can think of very few producers, on- or off-Broadway, who haven't been called "semi-reputable" and worse. As for the great, public mea culpa you want, I'm sure Ben's lawyer is telling him not to make any admissions that can be used against him in future litigation. That much, at least, is true in every industry.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by PatrickDennis92 2012-10-09 01:25:42


Just one thing-- Ben Sprecher may have not been smart, and he may be lazy, and he may not be the best producer... but he is a producer. What people don't seem to realize is that when we point our rifles up and shoot down a producer with claims like "they can't be trusted" or they "shouldn't be allowed to produce again", we eliminate someone who desires to be a creator of work, to hire actors, designers, musicians, and more. We are not merely making room for another highly qualified and motivated producer to take his or her place. There will now just be one less.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-10-09 01:37:00


Well said, Patrick! And what's more, do we want the American theater to be produced by nothing but mega-corporations? Yes, they sometimes produce good work, but more often, a ground-breaking show is the product in large part of a single producer's vision. (REBECCA may not be a good example, but the principle remains.)

Yes, Ben Sprecher has now had trouble securing the $12 million or more necessary to mount REBECCA in London and New York. But as Patrick asks, is that really anything to celebrate? Perhaps we indulge our schadenfreude at our own expense.

(Patrick, in a post above, I inadvertently repeated a point or two you had already made. I added a note to my post and I apologize there and here.)

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-10-09 01:40:34


Patrick, despite the passage of time, I can guarantee you that Ben Sprecher isn't lazy. I don't know what all mistakes he made with REBECCA, but I seriously doubt any involved a failure to work hard.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by Broadwaybob2 2012-10-09 02:01:24


GavestonPS - Apologies if I misinterpreted one of your points. I guess the way it was phrased made me feel as if the larger issue was being ignored.

This whole situation can be debated for years to come, and surely it will.

Despite what the press has said, Ben hasn't actually been indemnified of any illegal wrongdoing. Not saying he will be or will not be, but I will not pass any judgements either way until the FBI exhausts their investigation.

No matter if Ben is a good guy or a bad guy, it's really immaterial at this point. He took a risk... a big risk. And it didn't pay off. Life and business is all about risk taking, it's almost essential for success. However Ben took one that would be seen as irresponsible by other level headed producers. If you want to gamble 50k on someone who you've never met knowing it will be easy to fill the gap, ok. But to put one third of your show, such a large chunk, into the hands of a stranger and pure fate is silly. And it's not what a veteran businessman would have done. Ben clearly took the money because time was running out and this was his only option. Someone with higher ethics and better strategical skills would have delayed long ago and allowed greater time to search for new, reliable capital. And yes this does have to do with ethics. As much as Ben's career has been effected, he lost his investors millions of dollars in pre-production. He gambled with their money.

Very sad at the end of the day. I wish him well and I really do hope he recovers. But in order for one to do so and gain respect, you must rise above the situation, take responsibility and make amends. The litigation is coming anyway. Saving face at this point consists of facing your problems head on, ducking in the other direction and spinning tales to shift the blame is just cowardly. Sorry, but it's true.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by PalJoey 2012-10-09 07:37:23


I wish him well and I really do hope he recovers.

Don't be disingenuous. You do not. Or you wouldn't have posted the same attacks over and over again in the thread.

But to bash him repeatedly, professionally and personally, then to claim that you wish him well is transparently false.

Now let's get back to the important matter: Jane selling sex toys at intermission.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-10-09 17:42:38


I don't think Jane wants to talk about it, Joey. She deleted that post.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-10-09 17:57:09


You don't owe me an apology, B-bob. In one sense, you and I are saying much the same thing: the whole story is far from known at this time.

I haven't worked in the commercial theater in a long time and I'm sure it is greatly changed. But my point has been that Broadway has unique practices and I haven't yet seen much that claims Ben Sprecher varied from those practices. (As you point out, he also has not been exonerated.)

The one exception is the "finder's fee" promised to Hotton for bringing in investors. The TIMES claims that was unusual. But as I've said, one would think such an arrangement would have given Hotton incentive to vet his investors himself. A commission arrangement in and of itself isn't usually an invitation to commit fraud.

Now that the worst has happened, I don't think anybody can disagree with your assessment of what "should" have been done.

But after a bank has been robbed, it's easy to agree it should have had more security guards. That doesn't prove it had fewer guards than other banks.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by Broadwaybob2 2012-10-09 18:13:17


Yes, except in this case there is proof. Mark Hotton has a shady track record easily found online. Reputable people generally don't deal with those who have been implicated in criminal conduct. By engaging with Mark, Ben automatically tore down part of the safety wall around his venture.

Furthermore, the fact that Ben never met or even spoke directly with Paul Abrams shows less guards were at the bank. Far from standard and customary procedure. This is not in hindsight, the process has now been documented in the NY Times.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by CurtainPullDowner 2012-10-09 18:38:52


"reliable people generally don't deal with those who have been implicated in criminal conduct."
They hired Barbour too.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-10-09 19:30:36


Reputable people generally don't deal with those who have been implicated in criminal conduct.

I think you'd be surprised. I wrote above that my own father is a professional con artist. He has bankrupted dozens, if not hundreds, of people and/or stolen their life savings, and still manages to "rise from the dead" after each disaster to find new pigeons. (Or he did the last I heard. He's been on the lam for some time now.)

If Hotton had an agreement to receive a commission on the investment from "Abrams" and others, then Ben might well expect Hotton to supply limited info. Otherwise, what would prevent Ben from contacting the "investors" directly and cutting Hotton out of the deal? (That, I suspect, is the answer to your question as to why Sprecher didn't insist on personal contact with Abrams.)

People continued to work with David Merrick despite all sorts of shenanigans, financial and personal. They worked with Jerry Robbins regardless of his personal failings and often nasty demeanor.

David Begelman robbed Judy Garland and other clients, forged checks and became the head of Columbia Pictures. When Cliff Robertson finally blew the whistle on Begelman's forgery, it was Robertson who was blamed and his career that was ruined. Begelman went on to become CEO of MGM.

It's amazing what people will overlook when they believe someone makes, has or has access to a great deal of money. Ben Sprecher is hardly the first to be fooled.


Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by Broadwaybob2 2012-10-09 19:59:09


GavestonPS - you've worn me out. I don't have time to go tit for tat on every single point. I'm a big picture guy.

End of the day - Sprecher risked his investor's money and Rebecca's future on an investor he never met or had any contact with. He put his trust in the hands of a man who has committed criminal acts. This information is publicly available. Do people make comebacks, sure. Is it smart to leverage a third of your show on someone's comeback? Probably not.

We can debate the small issues for days and days. Point blank, Sprecher's Broadway career is over. No theater owner will trust him again and he'll be hard pressed to find investors. If he only got scammed, people would forgive him. His incompetence and overly risky decisions is why the community will no longer trust him. History will speak for itself. No need to argue any further. There's excuses in life for everything. They never fully rectify the big picture.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by Broadwaybob2 2012-10-10 05:42:45


Before departing this conversation, I'd like to share the following quotes.

NY Times: Rebecca Sees Investor Fade, as if Dreamt
http://nyti.ms/TuXD6R

"I've never heard of a situation where you didn't at least meet the person raising 30 percent of your show budget," said Robert E. Wankel, president of the Shubert Organization, one of the big three Broadway landlords and a six-figure investor in "Rebecca" as well as the owner of its intended theater, the Broadhurst.

"Broadway does business in its own strange way, I'll grant you," Mr. Wankel said. "But this is the strangest bit of show business to come along in a long time."


and


"Mr. Sprecher developed close ties to the Shubert Organization while running an Off Broadway theater for it, which helps explain the Shubert executives' flexibility with him." - to answer your question GavestonPS, of why the Shubert's accepted Ben's assertions of being fully financed.


and


"Emanuel Azenberg, a veteran Broadway producer who counts Mr. Sprecher as a friend, said he feared that Mr. Sprecher "may have bitten off more than he can chew" in his attempt to become a player on Broadway."

"There are only a handful of Broadway producers who have the money and contacts to take on a major musical as a lead producer," said Mr. Azenberg, who brought Mr. Sprecher on as a producer of Broadway plays like the 2005 revival of "The Odd Couple." (Mr. Azenberg is not involved with "Rebecca.") "If Ben ends up raising the money, it will be an incredible comeback. If he doesn't, he'll face a lot of difficulties producing again."


Enough said.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-10-10 08:06:45


Talk about cherry-picking your quotes, B-bob! The first paragraph of your link makes exactly the point I've been making:

"The business of Broadway has always been cloaked in mystery. Most of its 40 theaters are run by three private organizations that operate out of public view. Producers keep deal-making under wraps. The biggest mystery of all is why so many sophisticated investors go along with business-as-usual on Broadway when few shows turn a profit."

Further, the article only says the REBECCA affair is the most bewildering "lately". It doesn't claim it's the oddest ever. And whatever the personal relationship between Ben and the Shuberts, a previous article QUOTES someone from the Shuberts saying that Ben shared his due diligence documentation, they didn't just take his word on everything.

I've worked with Manny Azenburg and, as far as I know, he remains one of the most respected producers on Broadway. But, per your link, Azenburg counts Ben Sprecher "as a friend". Second, look at Manny's language (basically, to paraphrase: it's difficult for any individual producer to get a big musical on Broadway; it will be even more difficult for Sprecher if REBECCA fails) and compare it with your continued hollering that "BEN SPRECHER WILL NEVER WORK IN THIS TOWN AGAIN!"

You also skipped over the part where Ben is quoted admitting he made mistakes in his zeal to get the show financed. You've been screaming for pages that Ben hasn't been sufficiently apologetic, yet you ignore him when he obliges.

I've admitted my bias here, though mostly I've just been playing devil's advocate. Why do you feel such impassioned glee at the suffering and potential failure of somebody who tried to produce a show?







Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by PatrickDennis92 2012-10-10 14:58:01


Bbob, you are hilarious. Ben Sprecher's Broadway career is not "over"-- I would wager this episode will motivate him to work even harder. You're just being mean. You obviously don't like Ben. Well, I don't like Mitt Romney. But I would say it to his face, and not be a coward and anonymously attack someone on a message board.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by Broadwaybob2 2012-10-10 16:54:52


GavestonPS - quite simple. I started out by saying that whether Ben is a good guy or bad guy, it's immaterial as he made irresponsible and incompetent decisions. No one bases over a third of their show's capitalization on an investor they've never met or had contact with. My quote from the President of the Shubert Organization provides validity to my point from one of the most powerful men on Broadway.

Just because you provide a quote that says the business of Broadway is "cloaked in mystery", it doesn't mitigate the quotes I posted from Broadway professionals claiming Ben did not follow the standard and customary procedure of vetting investors.

There's nothing to pick apart. The quotes are in black and white in my last post for those who want to see, and I provide a link to the NY Times article so that one may read the full context in which they're used.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-10-10 18:38:09


Yes, bob, I suggested you were choosing only the quotes that suit your argument. I did not accuse you of misquoting or of manufacturing quotations out of thin air. But that isn't the only article from the TIMES and some of your assertions and interpretations are precisely contradicted in other TIMES articles, which are linked above. So the truth is still out there.

You've chosen not to respond to my suggestion that the problem may have stemmed from Ben's unusual "finder's fee" arrangement with Hotton, an arrangement that may have led Ben to expect Hotton to protect Hotton's own commission by offering less than full disclosure of investor info. Why would Ben suspect fraud when we can't figure it out either? It doesn't, in fact, make any financial sense for Hotton to invent phony investors, and somebody is still responding now and then from Abrams' "office", according to the article you found.

(An imperfect but true analogy: 20 years ago, an acquaintance of mine met David Hasselhoff and played him a song I co-wrote; Hasselhoff expressed an interest in recording it. The acquaintance offered to put my collaborator and I in touch with Hasselhoff in return for a "finder's fee", a percentage of the recording rights. I passed, because I was underwhelmed by the singer and offended at how the acquaintance was treating my co-writer: the two were long-time friends. NEVER DID I ASK FOR PROOF of Hasselhoff's interest, because the acquaintance seemed to have no reason to lie about the matter, i.e., she wouldn't get a dime unless the Hasselhoff story was true.

This is a trivial example compared to a third of the financing for a Broadway show, but the principle and the lack of confirmation are roughly the same.)

Was Sprecher's arrangement with Hotton a mistake? I think we can now say yes, it almost literally blew up the show.

So Ben Sprecher used a creative method to try to achieve the near-impossible task of financing a Broadway musical without backing from a large corporation. It didn't work. That's a shame for all involved, but it doesn't make Ben Sprecher the Antichrist. And I promise you it's neither the first nor last time somebody reached for a creative way to finance a show.







Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by Broadwaybob2 2012-10-10 19:51:53


To once again quote the president of the Shubert Organization, "I've never heard of a situation where you didn't at least meet the person raising 30 percent of your show budget."

It's fine to engage in creative methods of fundraising - but you don't leave so much to chance. No matter what the situation is or perceived incentive, it's an amateurish move. There's too much bull**** in the entertainment industry where a veteran wouldn't accept a story fully on the surface, without any due diligence, a meeting, a phone call, references etc.

No one is criticizing Ben for trying to make REBECCA happen out of thin air. It's the lack of precautions he took while gambling with investor's money. If you lost a million dollars because of this guy, would you find it acceptable he never met or spoke directly with the man who was supposed to be supporting a third of the show?

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-10-10 20:29:36


Are you reading MY posts, B-bob, or is this a one-way transmission?

OBVIOUSLY, the gambit did not work and Sprecher lost his financing. So, for the moment, he has failed.

But from reading your posts, you would think he was the first producer ever to close a show before rehearsals began, and we know that isn't true.

I'm suggesting the fiasco may have resulted from the method he used to obtain that last $4.5 million. That isn't a defense of the maneuver, but it's at least an analytical idea and not another generalized rant. And, yes, it is consistent with other quotes that have said giving somebody a commission for bringing in investors is NOT standard procedure on Broadway.

This case may eventually prove why it is not standard procedure.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by bobs3 2012-10-10 20:39:21


I think GavestonPS and Broadwaybob2 need to get a room, get naked, do it, and get it out your systems.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-10-10 20:46:00


Thanks for the suggestion, bobs3, but I think B-bob and I are fine. We've almost certainly taken this discussion as far as it can go unless and until we get more inside info.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by Broadwaybob2 2012-10-11 02:48:45


GavestonPS, no Ben Sprecher is not the first producer to cancel a show before t begins rehearsals. However in this instance the cancellation of a show and loss of millions of dollars is DIRECTLY his fault. Even if Ben was scammed, due to his negligent practices, he left the door wide open.

Comission based financing is not standard for Broadway. It's no big deal that Brn decided to pursue this option. His mistake is that he took the situation completely at face value, with no due diligence what so ever. You seem to want to ignore this point, despite the fact that it has lost hundreds of people their jobs and caused significant monetary damage.

So to once again quote the President of the Shubert Organization, THIS IS THE REASON WHY BEN IS NOT A COMPETENT PRODUCER. THIS IS HOW HE OPENED HIMSELF UP TO POTENTIALLY BEING TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF. THIS IS NOT WHAT A VETERAN PRODUCER DOES DESPITE WHICHEVER METHOD OF CREATIVE FINANCING HE OR SHE MAY ENGAGE WITH:

Robert E. Wankel - "I've never heard of a situation where you didn't at least meet the person raising 30 percent of your show budget."

NO METHOD OF RAISING MONEY MAKES UP FOR THE ABOVE LACK OF COMPETENCE! This is so ridiculous. I've raised over $10 million in my career as a Broadway financier and I'm sitting here arguing with some assistant who has clearly no comprehension of the business process that goes into mounting these shows. How you can sit here and blindly defend a guy who just lost millions of dollars because of his own stupid decisions is really, really disheartening. Life is about to take its course as it always does, and Ben is about to unfortunately loose his shirt. But please continue and tell us why it's ok that hundreds are now out of work and millions lost... How about you go run a business first and then come back to me with a real opinion? One that has actual perspective.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by Broadwaybob2 2012-10-11 02:49:22


GavestonPS, no Ben Sprecher is not the first producer to cancel a show before t begins rehearsals. However in this instance the cancellation of a show and loss of millions of dollars is DIRECTLY his fault. Even if Ben was scammed, due to his negligent practices, he left the door wide open.

Comission based financing is not standard for Broadway. It's no big deal that Brn decided to pursue this option. His mistake is that he took the situation completely at face value, with no due diligence what so ever. You seem to want to ignore this point, despite the fact that it has lost hundreds of people their jobs and caused significant monetary damage.

So to once again quote the President of the Shubert Organization, THIS IS THE REASON WHY BEN IS NOT A COMPETENT PRODUCER. THIS IS HOW HE OPENED HIMSELF UP TO POTENTIALLY BEING TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF. THIS IS NOT WHAT A VETERAN PRODUCER DOES DESPITE WHICHEVER METHOD OF CREATIVE FINANCING HE OR SHE MAY ENGAGE WITH:

Robert E. Wankel - "I've never heard of a situation where you didn't at least meet the person raising 30 percent of your show budget."

NO METHOD OF RAISING MONEY MAKES UP FOR THE ABOVE LACK OF COMPETENCE! This is so ridiculous. I've raised over $10 million in my career as a Broadway financier and I'm sitting here arguing with some assistant who has clearly no comprehension of the business process that goes into mounting these shows. How you can sit here and blindly defend a guy who just lost millions of dollars because of his own stupid decisions is really, really disheartening. Life is about to take its course as it always does, and Ben is about to unfortunately loose his shirt. But please continue and tell us why it's ok that hundreds are now out of work and millions lost... How about you go run a business first and then come back to me with a real opinion? One that has actual perspective.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-10-11 10:20:11


Well, I see we've now stooped to idiotic personal attacks. I'm devastated, I'm sure.

For the record, I worked as an assistant producer 35 years ago! There's no shame in that and I have never tried to deny it. But it isn't something I've done recently, nor have I claimed to do so.

Given the lack of specificity in your replies, I assume you hired a lawyer to read aloud and explain the prospectuses of the shows for which you raised all that money. Perhaps he or she could read my posts and help you craft a response...

(Hint: rather than defending Ben, I was suggesting that the method he reportedly used to secure the final $4.5 million was inherently flawed. Your lawyer can explain.)

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by Broadwaybob2 2012-10-15 20:38:52


Well, GavestonPS, we now know that Ben advanced Mark Hotton 60k. So to counter your argument, Ben had absolutely no reason not to conduct due diligence.

Ad I've previously said, he made incompetent decisions and gambled with his investor's money.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-10-16 18:24:50


Yes, we do know that NOW, B-bob, and Ben advancing Hotton $60K is very hard to defend. I won't try, certainly not at the moment. (No doubt there are additional details we still don't know.)

I was merely trying to bring the conversation to specifics, rather than throwing a word like "incompetent" around willy-nilly. David Merrick was incompetent in his production of BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S and THE HAPPY TIME, but nobody today thinks those two famous failures sum up his career.

Every time a produce fails to get a show up (which happens more often than success, as you know), s/he is "incompetent" in that context. I don't see what repeating the claim teaches us.

None of the new info changes my mind that the "finder's fee" method of financing a Broadway show may be inherently flawed because the "finder" has every reason not to disclose too much about his investors and the producer may be lulled into a false sense of security. I still think that may have happened here.

If I'm right, that doesn't absolve Sprecher of all blame; it merely makes the lesson to be learned here more generally relevant than a personal attack on one producer. And I certainly agree that advancing $60K to the "finder" makes the method seem all the more ill-advised.

BUT: IF Hotton had been legit and IF Ben had successfully raised the full capital for REBECCA, we'd be hailing his "finder's fee" method as genius, rather than calling him names. 'Cause THAT'S how show biz works.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by Broadwaybob2 2012-10-17 01:57:14


Not exactly. If I worked with him, I'd still think it was incompetent and incredibly risky. He would have just happened to got lucky and it paid off. Lots of people get lucky. It doesn't mean they're all smart. That's why you have to look at track records.

Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...
Posted by g.d.e.l.g.i. 2012-10-17 02:07:27


Oh, f**king hell, would you give it a rest already? Christ, I didn't harp on Godspell half this much, and already I'm sure I feel what everyone else felt when I was doing that, to say nothing of having tremendous new sympathy for everyone who had to deal with me then. We get it, he screwed up. Find something else to yammer on about.