Changes continue at Livent two weeks after the announcement that CEO Garth Drabinsky would move to a vice chairmanship and let the financial side of the company be run by new Chief Executive Officer Roy Furman and stock-holder Mike Ovitz.
Rumors flew that the company would relocate from Toronto to New York, heated even further by a story in the Toronto Star this week published and days later, recanted, saying as much. On the other hand, Eleanor Goldhar, Senior Vice President in charge of Publicity, told Playbill On-Line (May 1), "We're definitely staying here. Everything's going ahead as planned."
Now Livent has lost its veteran veep Norman Zagier, who resigned from company Apr. 30. His most recent position was Senior Vice President, Strategic Planning for Marketing and Communications.
Asked about the move, Goldhar explained that when Zagier was promoted to his strategic planning position a year ago, she took over his old job as head of publicity. Now that Zagier's leaving, the position he currently holds will probably be eliminated.
In an open letter to his colleagues, Zagier, a Drabinsky player since the Cineplex Odeon days, says he plans to move to the U.S. by early fall. He has only nice things to say about Livent and intends "to be an ambassador of goodwill" for the company. The letter also recounts Zagier's history at the firm, which he joined at its inception in 1986 (as a press rep for the Dreamgirls international tour). He later saw the reopening of Toronto's Pantages Theatre (with Phantom of the Opera) and shared in the success of Ragtime's trip to Broadway.
Days after Garth Drabinsky stepped down as CEO of Livent Inc. in favor of ex-Disneyite Michael Ovitz, the Toronto theatre community was somewhat reassured by Drabinsky's protestations that operations will remain north of the Great Divide.
"Toronto is still our home base and our laboratory for development," Livent's Marty Bell told The Toronto Star in mid-April. "Toronto...has excellent facilities and we love the development relationships we're building with York University, the ballet and the opera company. If it ain't broke, why fix it?"
Canadian Equity's Executive Director, Susan Wallace, also told The Star that: "Yesterday we were worried, but now we're cautiously optimistic. Our obvious fear is that Livent will go south of the border, which would be a huge blow. But we've been assured the company won't be abandoning its Canadian roots and we have to take that at face value.
"We have to trust that Garth Drabinsky will have enough influence over his new partners to keep it viably Canadian."
Wallace also said that Livent "carries a weekly payroll of as much as $2 million to maintain some 350 actors, dancers, choreographers and stage managers and the Star estimates that Livent actually employs around 1,000 people at any given time when you take in various other facets such as construction, costuming and stage crews.
Competing Toronto Producer David Mirvish put a brighter face on the upheaval, when he told The Star: "When investors stand up to put millions into that company, it's a great vote of confidence and the conclusion you can draw is that live theatre has grown to the point of being a major industry.
"The very nature of the business makes predictions difficult, but Toronto will not implode, in terms of theatrical activity. The audiences, the talent, the great technicians, the set-building operations and the advantage of the Canadian dollar. I can only feel positive about it."