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Why Ben Sprecher pisses me off and is not a competent producer...

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GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
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.
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TheatreDiva90016
Broadway Legend
joined:4/10/04
Darn, I wish I could have seen Janes original posts!
"TheatreDiva90016 - another good reason to frequent these boards less."<<>> “I hesitate to give this line of discussion the validation it so desperately craves by perpetuating it, but the light from logic is getting further and further away with your every successive post.” <<>> -whatever2
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GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
I sent you a PM, Diva. There was nothing mean or libelous in Jane's posts.

Updated On: 10/6/12 at 07:34 PM
Broadwaybob2
Swing
joined:10/3/12
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.
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GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
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.)
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My Oh My
Broadway Legend
joined:6/29/07
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.
Recreation of original John Cameron orchestration to "On My Own" by yours truly. Click player below to hear.
Broadwaybob2
Swing
joined:10/3/12
Agreed. Lots of incompetence by Ben.
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GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
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.

Broadwaybob2
Swing
joined:10/3/12
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.
Updated On: 10/8/12 at 08:39 AM
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Jane2
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joined:2/13/04
"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.
<-----craves juicy pizza
PatrickDennis92
Understudy
joined:9/25/12
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.
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AC126748
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joined:7/15/06
"You travel alone because other people are only there to remind you how much that hook hurts that we all bit down on. Wait for that one day we can bite free and get back out there in space where we belong, sail back over water, over skies, into space, the hook finally out of our mouths and we wander back out there in space spawning to other planets never to return hurrah to earth and we'll look back and can't even see these lives here anymore. Only the taste of blood to remind us we ever existed. The earth is small. We're gone. We're dead. We're safe." -John Guare, Landscape of the Body
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Kad
Broadway Legend
joined:11/5/05
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.
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GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
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.







Updated On: 10/9/12 at 06:01 PM
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Kad
Broadway Legend
joined:11/5/05
Considering Sprecher's defense of the production and procedure, I would say that any misgivings he had, he kept to himself.
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GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
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.
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g.d.e.l.g.i.
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joined:6/13/12
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.



Formerly gvendo2005
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Updated On: 10/8/12 at 08:29 PM
PatrickDennis92
Understudy
joined:9/25/12
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?



Updated On: 10/8/12 at 09:24 PM
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GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
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?







Updated On: 10/9/12 at 09:50 PM
Broadwaybob2
Swing
joined:10/3/12
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.




Updated On: 10/9/12 at 12:05 AM
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GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
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.

Updated On: 10/9/12 at 01:21 AM
PatrickDennis92
Understudy
joined:9/25/12
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.
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GavestonPS
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joined:6/10/12
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.)
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GavestonPS
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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.
Broadwaybob2
Swing
joined:10/3/12
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.
Updated On: 10/9/12 at 02:01 AM
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PalJoey
Broadway Legend
joined:3/11/04
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.
yr pal,
joey




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