Livent Producers Drabinsky and Gottlieb Get Prison Sentences

News   Livent Producers Drabinsky and Gottlieb Get Prison Sentences Garth Drabinsky and Myron Gottlieb, the former leaders of the now-defunct theatrical production company Livent, Inc., who were convicted earlier this year of fraud, were sentenced on Aug. 5 to seven and six years in prison, respectively, for their crimes.
Garth Drabinsky, creator and producer of
Garth Drabinsky, creator and producer of "Triple Sensation." Photo by Michael Cooper

Ontario Superior Court of Justice Mary Lou Benotto handed down the sentence. According to the Financial Post of Canada, one-time impresario Drabinsky gets seven years in jail for the fraud to be served concurrent with a four-year sentence for a forgery conviction. Gottlieb received six years for the fraud concurrent with four years for the forgery.

The men were taken into custody and to a bail hearing, where they were granted bail while they appeal their criminal convictions. (When convicted white collar criminals appeal their convictions and sentencing in Canadian courts, bail and freedom are common.)

Justice Benotto did not give the men longer sentences because of health issues resulting from Drabinsky's childhood polio and the fact that Gottlieb had suffered personal losses and has been unable to work for the past ten years, the Post reported.

It was also reported that the court had received letters of support from Christopher Plummer (who starred in Livent's Barrymore, winning a Tony Award) and E.L. Doctorow (on whose novel the Livent musical Ragtime was based), and business moguls.

The prosecution had sought eight to ten years in prison for the men, whose publicly traded production company created Tony-winning or -nominated Broadway shows including Ragtime, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Fosse, Parade, Barrymore, Show Boat and more. They were convicted of falsifying accounting statements over the decade-long (1989-98) life of Livent, as they raised $500 million in Canada and the U.S. to support their North American theatre-owning and producing empire. Last month, it was reported that the men were seeking a community service sentence that would put them on a college lecture circuit (visiting theatre and business schools) to talk about theatrical excellence and "avoidance of unethical conduct."

Justice Benotto denied them that option on Aug. 5.

"If this were the U.S., that suggestion would result in the entire courtroom bursting out with laughter," Jacob Frenkel, an ex-U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission lawyer, told Bloomberg news.

Accounting irregularities at Livent were investigated in the late 1990s, when the company was reaching artistic fruition with the new musical Ragtime, which opened Livent's new Ford Center for the Performing Arts on Broadway (a merging of two vintage Broadway venues). The show would end up winning 1998 Tony Awards for Best Book of a Musical and Best Score, among others. (Fosse, which won a 1999 Tony as Best Musical, was then in the works.) By late 1998, the decade-old company declared bankruptcy and collapsed, and the stock was worthless. Bloomberg reported that the company's peak value was $269 million in 1996.

Drabinsky and Gottlieb are still wanted men in the U.S. In 1999 they were charged with fraud by the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York.

Drabinsky and Gottlieb were arrested by Canadian police in 2002. Their Livent colleagues Robert Topol and Gordon Eckstein were also charged. Topol's charges were stayed by a judge for "unreasonable delay." Eckstein pleaded guilty to one count of fraud, testified against Drabinsky and Gottlieb, and received a two-year "house arrest" sentence that ended in February.

In 1999 Livent's properties were bought by SFX Entertainment, which is now Live Nation.

Drabinsky's Livent, Inc., won Tony Awards for Best Musical (Fosse and Kiss of the Spider Woman) and Best Revival of a Musical (Show Boat), and its productions netted scores of nominations and many wins for artists.