Toronto Symphony Appears To Be Stuck In Former CEO’s Legal Splash Zone

Toward the end of March, 2016 we examined the nasty PR mess the Toronto Symphony Orchestras (TSO) has been caught up in by way of the very public annulment legal battle between former president and CEO, Jeff Melanson, and his estranged wife, Eleanor McCain.

Splash ZoneMelanson, who departed his position after 16 months on the job, recently launched a PR volley against McCain, daughter of food industrialist and 13th
wealthiest Canadian Wallace McCain. The 4/25/16 edition of The Globe And Mail published an article by Tu Thanh Ha and Marsha Lederman where Melanson asserts that McCain, a singer, made donations to orchestras but only if they hired her as a guest artists.

The article goes on to report Melanson’s assertions about TSO board influence.

…she sent “bullying” letters to TSO board members and threatened to “take down the entire TSO if she had to,”…

McCain staunchly denied those assertions and if there was any support for or validation of Melanson’s position, it wasn’t being offered up by the TSO, which has remained mum while the couple’s separation battle royal plays out in the papers. And that’s precisely an option that good crisis management would endorse in a scenario like this.

Unfortunately, that plan becomes increasingly difficult to maximize thanks to their former CEO’s insistence on repeatedly mentioning the group in his formal court filings.

As a result, it’s tough to stay dry when the splash zone gets to decide when you can leave.

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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