Guenther will remain in the post until his successor is appointed. He will continue to serve on the Philharmonic's board.
The Philharmonic's spring gala on April 26, a performance of film music conducted by John Williams, will include a tribute to Guenther. As previously reported, film directors Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg will also be on hand to introduce music by Bernard Herrmann and Williams, respectively.
The former president of PaineWebber Group, Guenther joined the Philharmonic board in 1994 and was named chairman two years later. He hired Zarin Mehta as executive director in 2000 (and later elevated him to president) and oversaw the appointment of music director Lorin Maazel as Kurt Masur's successor in 2002. Under his leadership, the Philharmonic's annual fund has grown from $8 million to $19 million, according to the Philharmonic.
In 2003, Guenther negotiated a merger with Carnegie Hall that would have allowed the Philharmonic to leave the acoustically mediocre Avery Fisher Hall and return to its historic home. Months later, however, the agreement collapsed, as it became clear that the two institutions had differing and perhaps conflicting priorities.
"Paul has taken the Philharmonic through some difficult periods, from the changing of the maestro to dealing with the weak business climate," said board member Robert H. Benmosche, the chair of the spring gala. "With Paul, it's always about making sure the Philharmonic is here for the long haul. It's never about his ego—it's always about keeping the organization moving forward."