The rapid unraveling of Orchestra London continued Thursday as London City Council refused to advance the beleaguered organization any additional funds to cover their rapidly deteriorating financial situation. With a gallery packed with students, members of the Orchestra and the general public, Mayor Matt Brown said “it is a tough decision to say no (to the orchestra), but we need to hit the re-set button”
The orchestra had asked City Council for $375,000 in emergency funding Tuesday to help it continue its operations. Included in that figure was $110,000 owed to the Canada Revenue Agency, $215,000 for musicians and staff to cover December payrolls, and $50,000 to cover the expense of bankruptcy litigators. In documents filed with the request, the Orchestra London Board admitted they did not know the organization owed money to the Canada Revenue Agency.
Joe Swan, Orchestra London’s Executive Director, submitted his resignation Tuesday afternoon, just after the Orchestra revealed its current financial position. According to unaudited financial statements presented to City Council, the orchestra is currently carrying an accumulated deficit of 1.2 million dollars, having incurred a deficit of $330,000 this past fiscal year. For each of the previous four years, the Orchestra had registered small surpluses.
In the past two weeks, the orchestra has canceled concerts without providing refunds, shuttered its offices, and failed to pay its musicians and staff. Its future at this point is unclear. The musicians of the orchestra continue to provide free pop-up services to the London community.
Before his resignation, Joe Swan pointed to a promised donation of $350,000 to the orchestra that did not materialize this fall as the cause of the organization’s financial woes, turning a projected surplus into a sizeable deficit. However, documents filed by the City treasurer note that the orchestra’s dependence on a $500,000 line of credit provided it by the City has more than doubled in the last three years. Last summer, a former bookkeeper for Orchestra London, Andrea Ruth, told the London Free Press of irregularities and reporting problems she had found in the organization’s financial system. Those charges were repeated last week on London radio station CJBK.
As well, representatives of the musicians’ and stagehands’ unions wrote a letter to Orchestra London’s Board in early December demanding a change in orchestra leadership, and warning that the orchestra’s financial situation was more serious than previously reported. Although London City Council had demanded monthly financial updates from Orchestra London, as part of a $500,000 annual grant the City had provided the organization, none had been forthcoming since early spring.
With no funds coming from City Council, it seems that Orchestra London will have no choice but to declare bankruptcy. What the impact of such a bankruptcy might have on the City of London, on patrons who have already purchased tickets to orchestra events, and most especially, to the 46 members of the Orchestra itself, is unknown. As well, the impact that the demise of the Orchestra will have on proposals to build a new Performing Arts Centre for London is unclear. The City Treasurer noted on Thursday that the orchestra owes approximately $50,000 in unpaid rent to its current performing facility, the city-owned Centennial Hall.
Orchestra London Timeline
- June 2013: Orchestra ends 2012-13 fiscal year with reported $31,000 surplus
- November 2013: Alain Trudel announces he will not be renewing his contract as Music Director after end of current season
- June 2014: Andrea Ruth, former OL bookkeeper alleges reporting and accounting improprieties within organization
- December 2014: Musician and stagehand unions write letter to Board demanding changes to “current leadership” at OL, warn financial situation more serious than reported
- December 9: Don Jones of Centennial Hall says OL has canceled all their dates for 2015-16
- December 10: OL fails to meet its scheduled payroll; musicians and staff unpaid
- December 11: OL offices closed
- December 12-13: OL’s A Very Elvis Christmas shows canceled – no refunds offered
- December 16: Joe Swan, OL Executive Director resigns OL Board files unaudited financial statement for 2013-14 fiscal year, reveals accumulated deficit of 1.2 million dollars OL Board asks City council for $110,000 to pay Canada Revenue Agency, $215,000 for December payrolls, $50,000 to pay for bankruptcy lawyers
- December 18: City Council decides against offering OL any additional funds