Pollstar employees expressed surprise, shock and concern for their future following layoffs Thursday (May 31) that gutted a large portion of the company’s 50+ person staff in Fresno, California and might lead to the sale of their office building.
While exact numbers aren’t available and it’s unclear how the dust is going to settle now that the Oak View Group is moving the magazine to its LA offices less than a year after acquiring the publication, the closure marks the end of an era for what had been an important and truly independent voice for the concert industry, which will now morph into something else.
Many described yesterday’s cuts as substantial and mirrored similar layoffs at Pollstar’s sister publication Venues Today, last year.
Following a mandatory all-staff meeting Thursday, some employees were let go, some retained and some offered a chance to move to OVG’s offices in LA’s Westwood neighborhood. Part of the challenge for employees who were offered a chance to stay with OVG is uprooting their families and lives to make the move north where housing prices are substantially higher. Many others weren’t given that option, with employees who had worked at the trade magazine for decades being told their positions were being eliminated.
According to the announcement, Pollstar’s editorial, technology, and box office teams will largely stay in tact, led by CTO Dan Martin who’s been with Pollstar since 2005 and Box Office Manager Bradley Rogers.
Pollstar’s Fresno offices
Missing from yesterdays’s layoff meetings were founders Gary Bongiovanni and Gary Smith, who were not present for a 9:30 am all-staff meeting to face employees as Ray Waddell, president, media & conferences, broke the news alongside a number of third-party HR representatives. Waddell informed Pollstar staff that OVG was moving the magazine to Los Angeles because that is where the entertainment industry is based.
Waddell does not live in LA and operates out of Tennessee, and a number of high-level employees at both publications work remotely, some as far away as North Carolina. Others say they were disappointed because Leiweke had promised in the run-up to the 2017 acquisition that “we’re not going to come along and thrash our way to profit,” according to an employee who took detailed notes of the 2017 meeting. “You take a company like this and what you do is you inspire it and provide the resources to grow,” he reportedly said.
Most employees who were let go yesterday were called in for one-on-one meetings where many were told their positions were being eliminated and they were offered a severance package, contingent on signing a non-disclosure agreement. Amplify spoke to several former employees who called the experience “sad” and “humiliating.”
The layoffs come months after OVG ended the office lease for another one of its publications, Venues Today, which is now Venues Now. Oak View Group bought the magazine from founder Linda Deckard in 2016 and two years later, laid off the majority of the staff and handed day-to-day control of the publication to Don Muret and Rob Knapp who joined the publication from Sports Business Journal in December. Venues Now is the anchor brand for the company’s annual Venues Now conference in Los Angeles. Oak View Group also now operates Pollstar Live, which takes place in Los Angeles.
Waddell also announced the hiring of Bob Allen, longtime manager of Billboard Boxscore, as well as Jon Guynn, VP of Operations for the division. Guynn was publisher for Southland Publishing in L.A., including Los Angeles Downtown News, Pasadena Weekly newspapers, and Arroyo Monthly magazine. According to a release from the company, Bongiovanni is set to soon retire while co-founder Smith will serve in an advisory capacity, similar to Deckard’s own role as a senior advisor to Venues Today.