Scott Rudin has lived large on Broadway for years.
He’s made his recent reputation in the last decade for bringing in big stars, charging very high ticket prices, cutting out the Broadway press, and making a lot of enemies.
Now it turns out his whole set may have been a house of cards.
Broadway’s biggest ad agency, Spot Co, is suing him for non payment of $6,331,972 and four cents in ads. You can read the complaint here.
Rudin blanketed shows like “CBS This Morning” and “60 Minutes” with ads for shows like Jeff Daniels in “To Kill a Mockingbird” and several others including Elaine May in “The Waverly Gallery,” the current and much criticized revival of “West Side Story,” “The Lehman Trilogy,” Nathan Lane in the great failure, “Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus,” Glenda Jackson in a disappointing “King Lear,” the about to open and unnecessary “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” and this fall’s now postponed “The Music Man” with Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster. He also covered every NYC bus, bus shelter, taxi, any surface available with his ads for his shows.
There’s a lot of minutiae in the lawsuit, but the gist of it is found in this paragraph: “Throughout the business relationship between SpotCo, Rudin, and SRP, Rudin and SRP have had a practice of being delinquent on outstanding invoices. Rudin and SRP’s usual practice is to make partial payments on outstanding invoices on the one hand, while requesting additional services on the other. In other words, while the oldest debts were paid off, new debts were incurred, and the result was that the totality of the debt was never paid in full.”
And here we have the mystery solved of how Rudin was affording big two paid spreads in the Sunday New York Times and all those TV splashes even for shows we all knew were duds. Ironically, Rudin always held himself out as the anti-Harvey Weinstein, who was also slow to pay his bills and for juggling accounts. But — aside from Weinstein’s situations with women– the two were not that different.
Two shows not mentioned in the lawsuit are Rudin’s actual hits– “The Book of Mormon” and the Bette Midler revival of “Hello, Dolly!” The latter is long since closed, and the former was struggling for a good year or more before the pandemic shut down.
An even bigger mystery is why the New York Times downplayed this story on August 7th. They barely acknowledged it. That’s because so much of the advertising Rudin didn’t pay for was in their paper. One thing we learn in the lawsuit is that this past February, Rudin went around SpotCo and paid the Times $3 million directly. This is was not the usual way things were done, but the suggestion is that Rudin could see Tony season coming and needed the Times more than he needed the agency.
Rudin’s attorney says: “The case has no merit and the defendants intend to contest it vigorously.”
But it’s hard to imagine Jackman and Foster, or other big stars, committing to Rudin for big budget productions with this lawsuit hanging over his head. And what of “Mockingbird,” which ended abruptly with the arrival of the pandemic? Will it return? And with Ed Harris, who’d succeeded Daniels as Atticus Finch? The jury is out.