How To Be A Patsy: The Machold Update

Where would this business be without the reality show circus that is the world of buying and selling rare string instruments? Probably better off, but that isn’t the case. Nonetheless, an article by Carsten Holm (and translated from the German by Christopher Sultan) in the 5/10/2012 of Spiegel Online International brings us the latest (and incredibly detailed) installment in the life and times of the notorious Dietmar Machold (spoiler alert: it isn’t going well).


Adaptistration People 132Even if you don’t follow the high flying world of rare instrument dealers, Machold’s name should ring a bell in that he was a central figure in the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra’s (NJSO) golden age instrument debacle from 2006 where it was discovered that a number of the instruments in the sale, which Machold brokered, were either fake or misrepresentations.

And according to Holm’s article, it appears the NJSO wasn’t alone as Machold gave fake Stradivari instruments to several European banks as collateral for multi-million dollar loans. In some cases, Machold reportedly managed to use the same fake instrument to secure loans from different lending institutions.

The article is well worth your time and should hopefully serve as a stark reminder that when this business fails to uphold reasonable standards for accountability and due diligence, it only invites con men like Machold.

Currently, Machold awaits trial in a Vienna prison.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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