Management Group Backs Out Of Deal To Take Over San Antonio Symphony

Dec 27, 2017

Updated throughout at 9:30 p.m.

A nonprofit organization created to run the San Antonio Symphony announced Wednesday it will no longer take over the troubled orchestra due to a potential multimillion dollar pension obligation.

 


Symphonic Music for San Antonio Chairman Bruce Bugg Jr. said the musicians’ union — the American Federation of Musicians — told him of an underfunded pension obligation of more than $4 million. Now, the management group has decided to hand back responsibility to the Symphony Society of San Antonio, which managed the symphony since its creation in 1939.

"We've contributed over $2 million since May of this year just to keep the symphonic season going," Bugg said. "Those funds went to pay the salaries of musicians and other expenses."

Symphonic Music was created on July 19 with the intent of taking over the symphony's business operations Aug. 31. That is, until an audit uncovered an unexpected cost, Bugg said.

"How we got to where we find ourselves today is we had asked for the audited financial statements of the Symphony Society of San Antonio for the period ending Aug. 31, 2016," he said. "That audit showed zero mention of any [underfunded] pension balances.

"... We made it clear from the beginning that we were not in the position at (Symphonic Music) to assume liabilities. We were only in a position to move forward."

Alice Viroslav, chairman of the Symphony Society of San Antonio, confirmed the shortfall, citing a dip in the stock market and possible mismanagement of the pension.

"So everyone in the pension is underfunded," she said. "The pension is a huge multi-employer plan. And the pension itself has lost over 40 percent in overall value in the stock market in 2008 and never fully recovered from that.

"And there’s actually an active lawsuit right now against the pension itself by some AFM musicians because exactly the issues that we’re talking about. So this has nothing to do with anything that we did. This has to do with the overall management of the pension fund."

Meanwhile, Craig Sorgi, a member of the San Antonio Symphony and union chairman, sent a news release late Wednesday in response to Bugg and Symphonic Music's decision that it will no longer manage the symphony due to the pension obligation.

"The board members of Symphonic Music for San Antonio are attempting to excuse their abandonment of the San Antonio Symphony by using the AFM pension plan as their scapegoat. This is a false excuse," the statement read. "... The SMSA board members spent months proclaiming themselves the saviors of the San Antonio Symphony. Now, like spoiled children, they have decided to pick up their marbles and leave because they couldn't get their way on everything, including having to deal with a pesky Union that didn't think reducing outstandingly skilled musicians' already-low pay scales was a very good idea."

  • READ | News release from Musicians of the San Antonio Symphony

There has been no update on concerts scheduled Jan. 5-6, which is after the musicians' union contract expires.

  • READ | The complete statement from Symphonic Music for San Antonio

Jack Morgan can be reached at jack@tpr.org. Vince Kong can be reached at vince@tpr.org