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The Lebrecht Weekly


Visit every week to read Norman Lebrecht's latest column. [Index]

Don't bank on your sponsors

By Norman Lebrecht / February 6, 2008

One of the biggest banking deals in classical music has gone down with a bump. UBS, the Swiss finance house, is ending its sponsorship of the Verbier Festival Orchestra after nine years, 100 million Swiss fracs and an advertising campaign that has given UBS high visibility in the international media as a promoter of youth and musical beauty. The excellent UBS Verbier orchestra has toured the BBC Proms, Carnegie Hall and other summits.

‘It all ended rather strangely, I heard about it in an anonymous email,’ says Martin Engstrom, the festival’s founder. ‘It appears Verbier has become too small for UBS.’

‘Once a project is so successful and the environment doesn’t allow it to grow,’ explains Patrick Simeons, sponsorship vice-president of UBS, ‘you have to look for other opportunities.’ Word has it that the bank is trying to build a new orchestra in the richer festival resorts of Lucerne and Aix-en-Provence.

None of this has anything directly to do with the banking crisis, or with the US federal investigation this week into UBS’s role in the sub-prime mortgage market. Simeons insists all is well with his sponsorship budget and he is not reviewing other clients, ‘at this stage’. The UBS link with the London Symphony Orchestra is, he says, solid.

Still, to the innocent eye, it does seem odd for an investor to quit when a venture is too successful. ‘They won’t be able to use the Verbier orchestra name any more,’ says Engstroem, ‘it’s a write-off for the bank.’ ‘That’ll be a matter for the lawyers,’ warns the bank. Let no-one imagine that sponsorship comes without shocks and strings.

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Visit every week to read Norman Lebrecht's latest column. [Index]



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