Bill would change orchestra ownership

The bill, authored by Phyllis Kahn, would make the Minnesota Orchestra publicly owned.
October 15, 2013

As negotiations continue in the Minnesota Orchestra lockout, a state legislator announced plans Monday for a bill that would turn the world-renowned ensemble into a publicly owned corporation.

Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, unveiled a bill she plans to introduce for the 2014 legislative session to make the orchestra a community-owned entity in which any individual or group could buy stock.

Though Kahn said she hasn’t discussed this proposal with orchestra management, she hopes it will push negotiations forward.

“The purpose of this bill is to begin the conversation,” Kahn said. “It’s not to say that this is the perfect model and this is exactly what we want to do.”

Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, will author the Senate version of the bill, Kahn said.

The measure proposes “broad-based local ownership” of the orchestra, similar to when a private company transitions to public ownership and sells its first stocks.

Kahn said this would gauge public support for the orchestra, in addition to keeping it financially afloat.

 An initial version of the bill stipulates that no individual or entity may own more than 5 percent stock in the orchestra corporation, and at least half of the shares must be sold to the general public.

Individual members of the general public wouldn’t be able to own more than 1 percent of the stock, according to the initial version of the bill.

The bill may allow members of the orchestra’s management to have the option of getting preferred stock.

The lockout began in fall 2012 when orchestra management proposed cuts to musicians’ salaries, barring the group from Orchestra Hall for more than a year.

Earlier this month, contract negotiations between orchestra management and musicians came to a head when longtime director Osmo Vänskä resigned because a deal wasn’t reached.

Left without a director or contract for musicians, the orchestra’s future is unclear.

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