To blow the whistle or not blow the whistle? “Rebecca” begs an answer.

Well, it had been a whole six months since the ill-fated Rebecca had been in the news, so you knew something had to pop up pretty soon.

And pop up it did in a big way yesterday, as reported by Jeremy Gerard at Deadline.

In case you’re new to Broadway buzz, a quick recap.  Rebecca was a big ol’ musical that tried to open on Broadway (twice!) a few years ago, only to flame out in a tabloid-like scandal that involved a con man now doing time, a fictitious investor who “died” of malaria, and a whole bunch of shell-shocked actors, musicians and technicians that ended up without jobs.

But there’s more.

See, it turns out the determined Producer of Rebecca, Ben Sprecher, had lined up another major investor to save the show, after he realized he was a couple million short.

But right before the investor was going to write the check, he got an anonymous email that suggested he should think twice before investing in Rebecca.

The investor got spooked.  And the show shut down right before rehearsals began.

And there’s still more.

It was then discovered that the author of the anonymous email was on the Producer’s payroll, and that it was the guy in charge of promoting the show, the press agent Marc Thibodeau.

This is a show within itself, right?

But waaaaaaait.

And that brings us to yesterday.

See, the Producer of Rebecca sued Thibodeau saying that if it wasn’t for him, the show would have happened.  He therefore cost investors millions of dollars.   And just a few hours ago, a NY judge declared that Thibodeau had breached his agreement with the Producer of Rebecca as a result of his actions and that a jury could decide the amount of his liability.

Oh, man.  Now things have gotten serious.

So why do I tell you this little tale of Broadway woe?

Because even I go back and forth about who was right and who was wrong.

As a Producer, of course, I want the people that work for me to support me in public and in private, and at least not go out of their way to undermine my show.  Who knows, Rebecca might have surprised everyone that year, and it would certainly have put a lot of people to work.

As a person who, like most of us, just lived through a massive recession and lost money thanks to unregulated corporations making bad decisions with “our” money, I can’t help but think we could have used some whistle blowers back then to save a lot of money and a lot of jobs.

Where do you draw the line between being professional and being responsible?  What would you have done in this circumstance if you were the Producer?  The Press Agent?

I’m eager to hear your thoughts, because I’m still formulating mine.

But one thing I know for sure.  You know who definitely lost?  Broadway. Because as fun as it may be to gossip, and yeah, even blog about a juicy backstage story like this, it doesn’t do business any good.  Do you know how many of my investors have asked me, “What happened with that Rebecca?”

Tell me your thoughts in the comments below.

 

(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)

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Comments
  • Mark says:

    This case is going to come down to damages. The jury will have to decide how much profit the show would have made. Statistically, of course, the answer is “probably they would have lost money since most shows don’t recoup”. IF the defendant can show that the show would not make a profit (or, more accurately, if plaintiff cannot prove that profit WAS going to be made), then defendant may be 100% guilty, but not have to pay anything at all to the investors. In other words, if the defendant can show he was right, then he doesn’t have to pay.

    On the other hand, all of the people who stood to make money regardless of the show’s recoup would stand to recover their salaries, if they can prove the show would have had a run of any length. That includes the producer’s office fee, etc.

    However, there’s also the hurdle of actual recovery. If this defendant loses, does he have any money to pay with? Or is the lawsuit simply going to hang over this person’s head forever without any financial benefit to show for it. As they say, once the lawyers get involved, no one wins.

    As a side note, one of the requirements to show these damages is that an expert will have to show, to a “reasonable level of certainty” how much profit the investors, etc., would have made on the show. That exercise is speculative at best. If the judge ruled that, as a matter of law, Broadway profits can be calculated to a reasonable level of certainty, you can expect a (very possibly successful) appeal, no matter what the jury decides.

    *this is not legal advice and should obviously not be taken as such.

  • Jared says:

    I think we need more information to make that decision. Thibodeau claims that the reason he sent the email is because Sprecher and company were aware of the fraudulent activity involving the phantom investor for months, yet continued to include the non-existent funds as part of their pitch to other investors. If that is true, then Thibodeau was entirely justified in blowing the whistle.

    But if Sprecher and company were operating in good faith, and Thibodeau acted out of his own personal feeling that the show was unlikely to turn a profit rather than any concrete proof, then he wasn’t really doing his job (which was to promote the show). And in that case, he probably does owe the show damages, as his actions directly caused the cancellation of the planned Broadway run and lost a lot of people jobs.

  • Jon says:

    “NEVER PUT YOUR OWN MONEY IN THE SHOW!!!!!” ( sorry someone had to yell that i believe Nathan is on stage at the moment)….

  • The greatest single tragedy here, irrespective of which side of the fence you fall on, is that the property of ‘Rebecca’ by Kunze/Levay is utterly tarnished by association. No-one will ever be able to do a version of ‘Rebecca’ ever again without the travesty of the ‘Sprecher’ production saga rearing its ugly head. As there are Right of Appeal options open to Mr. Thibodeau, I don’t believe that personal commentary on his actions; whether you believe he was acting to protect investors under a duty-of-care responsibility in his then role, or whether his ‘whistleblower’ defence was midguided, is really appropriate at this juncture. At the very least, I would seriously doubt that what has been published in toto about this debacle is the full-story.

  • That’s why I go against the old adage of other people’s money and only use my own to produce my own plays on Staten Island. Albeit on a very small scale with limited seating. Still and all, I’d rather sell out ten or twenty performances at a 50 seat venue with word of mouth and no promotional budget then deal with major production headaches and unhappy investors! Final weekend of ‘WAKE ME AT MIDNIGHT” at the Conference House on Staten Island. All shows SOLD OUT. .

  • Seriously, have you ever known a real life “Rebecca”? My college roommate actually read the novel several times during her formative years and “embodied” that madness. Guess what? It really works! Sweet, simple people can be manipulated into becoming tools, fools, maniacs and even aspiring, in their sickened imaginings, to discover they cannot stop dreaming of ways to murder her. Maybe the trouble with this musical is the result of a cosmic joke on another attempt to captivate young girls into emulating this poisonous personality type.

    LOL!! Kidding. I really am. Not! Yeah, I know this character. She’s like the Empress Theodora. She can think of a thousand ways to get people dead once she’s done exploiting them until they’re dry husks wandering around in the manner amusingly attributed to her victims: zombies!

    I’ve got my own “Rebecca,” I could write, as you might have guessed, but I can’t write it now ’cause I don’t want to die.

    P.S. Loved the Tim Rice podcast!

  • It’s really not a difficult ethical decision.

    1. The actions were illegal: Notify the appropriate authorities.
    2. The actions were legal but immoral: Leave the show, follow the terms of your contract, and avoid those people in the future.
    3. The actions were legal and moral: Get on with your life.

    And if you’re not sure whether something is #1 or #2, the appropriate authorities are always glad to sit down with you, hear the facts, and then it’s up to them to decide about the legality. You’ve done your duty.

    It doesn’t sound like this individual did any of these things, and I hate to say it, but I agree that he’s liable for breech of contract. It was an expensive lesson.

  • Ken Wydro says:

    Don’t put anything like that in an email.Send it by pigeon. One whose tongue has been cut out. Nobody can prove anything here, especially how long a Broadway musical will run or if it will ever generate any profit. Most fall into the river of BIG FISH, BRIDGES OVER MADISON COUNTY, ROCKY, SIDE SHOW, BONNIE AND CLYDE, THE LAST SHIP , HONEYMOON IN VEGAS, BULLETS OVER BROADWAY, and a few this season which will be also carried out to sea and never be heard from again. Then again, ONCE, AMERICAN IN PARIS and SOMETHING ROTTEN were also considered long shots, and they were – or will be – around a long time to come. If you willing and able to invest in a Broadway music, then you really, really have to be prepared to lose. Weren’t all investors supposed to be accredited and checked for veracity?

  • Melissa Bell says:

    Ken, I am curious to know what a sophisticated investor such as you means when you say you ” lost money thanks to unregulated corporations making bad decisions with “our” money”. Are you speaking of hedge funds? If you lost money in a hedge fund, I would argue that you were a sophisticated investor who should have been aware of the risks of investing in a hedge fund (or a Broadway show) and therefore Caveat Emptor (buyer beware). But back to Rebecca–wow what does this mean for whistle blowers in general?

  • Dan Radakovich says:

    If Thibodeau knew of rannygazoo in the area of fraud his duty was to approach the authorities, i.e. the state attorney general or city DA, not to send anonymous emails to favored investors. If one is working for someone who is doing questionable behavior, there is no obligation to keep working for them.

  • Eva says:

    I know Marc Thibodeau and he is a very decent guy. I think it is terrible to make him pay for trying to save a guy from losing his hard earned money. He did the right thing and as a Producer wouldn’t you like to know if it is safe to invest your money. Don’t forget who the real criminal is: the fraudulent investor. What is happening to him. He’s the one who should be paying. The ones that are suing Marc are barking up the wrong scapegoat.

    • Jared says:

      Well, the fraudulent investor doesn’t exist, so nothing is happening to him. I believe the man who invented the fake investor pleaded guilty and is serving jail time.

  • Kerry Zukus says:

    I am certain there is a reasonable amount of regulation on Broadway investments, i.e. disclosures to investors. My question is whether the investor in question indeed received all required disclosures and whether those disclosures were accurate. If they were not, the whistleblower still erred by not contacting the regulatory authorities. Contacting the investor is not a proper remedy. If, on the other hand, the investor received all required disclosures and those disclosures were accurate and not fraudulent, then the whistleblower was doubly wrong. No matter how you slice it, the whistleblower acted improperly. While I am sympathetic to the investor, investors are only mandated to receive certain bits of information and nothing more. Past that, it is up to them to ask additional questions and check out the validity of the answers on their own.

  • Ken Marion says:

    Ken, There is a significant amount of detail missing. As a retired compliance officer I would want to know what the whistleblower blew the whistle about. Was the producer somehow misleading investors (past and future) about the management of the production or a rights issue or something that would crash the show other than the usual risks? In my experience many whistleblowers have an axe to grind, BUT, there is often some truth in what they report, so every allegation is investigated. It can happen anywhere to anyone. It can happen because of hurt feelings or less than honorable treatment of colleagues or subordinates. It can happen because there are people who enjoy stirring the pot. As if the odds of broadway success were not long enough!

  • Re: Statement from Lead Counsel to Rebecca Broadway LP with reference to the decision granted by Justice Jeffrey K. Oing regarding Rebecca the Musical.

    While Mark Thibodeau continues to press his warped view of his own conduct, earlier today an independent unbiased New York State Supreme Court Justice roundly rejected his view and found him to have breached his contract and his responsibilities as a publicist and employee of Rebecca, The Musical.

    None of Mr. Thibodeau’ s posturing or self-serving explanations will change the fact that his so-called “whistle-blowing” acts cost the play the investment that it required and had received. Nor will his most recent press release remedy the damage his reckless conduct caused the creators, the actors and the investors. Indeed, as the Court ruled today, those damages will be determined at an upcoming trial now that it has been determined that Mr. Thibodeau breached his agreement.

    Perhaps most troubling in his most recent post is Mr. Thibodeau’ s repetition of the lie that the producers knew they were being defrauded and somehow were complicit. Again, Mr. Thibodeau blinks reality and chooses to ignore another Court proceeding in which Mr. Hotton pled guilty to defrauding Rebecca. There simply is no longer any question but that Rebecca was victimized twice…..first by Mark Hotton and then by Marc Thibodeau.

    It is now crystal clear that but for own publicist’s outrageous betrayal, the curtain would have gone up on Rebecca, The Musical in the fall of 2012. With today’s Supreme Court ruling we are more convinced than ever that Rebecca, The Musical will open soon!

    Ronald G. Russo, Esq.
    Counsel for Rebecca Broadway LP

    Ronald Russo Esq
    Schlam Stone & Dolan LLP
    26 Broadway
    New York, NY 10004
    Main: 212 344-5400
    RRusso@schlamstone.com

  • David Merrick Jr says:

    I’ve got a good question.

    Why would anyone want to invest with Ben Sprecher?

  • Randy Zeese says:

    If all of this means that Rebecca will indeed open after all, I am thrilled! I was fortunate enough to hear one of the prospective songs from Rebecca sung by the magnificent Karen Mason at one of her Manhattan concerts, and it was truly a showstopper. Bring it on!!!

  • Theater lover says:

    The article has some inaccurate details:

    “It was then discovered that the author of the anonymous email was on the Producer’s payroll, and that it was the guy in charge of promoting the show, the press agent Marc Thibodeau.”

    This is not accurate, from what I read from the court documents Thibodeau was not on the pay role nor paid a dime by producers. It appears that out of his love for the theater when the producers went to him to do publicity, arrangements were made that producers begin to pay Thibodeau when the show was on its feet. Why would a producer who had this faux investor need to hire Broadway’s best PR firm and get it fro free until money was flowing? Producers claimed to have money. It defies logic.

    I read only a verbal contract was in place.

    It seems abundantly clear that Thibodeau determined fraud and deception were indeed happening.

    The only decent action to take would be to warn investors to do their own research and be cautious.

    Using an anonymous email to warn new investors seems to be the only unwise choice Thibodeau made.

    He should have ended the unofficial arrangement of the ” contract”, and resigned, then notified the FBI and police.

    There was no agenda or win in this for Thibodeau to blow a whistle. He only had loss to face by attempting to do the right thing. He had to worry no one would work with him if he was seen as this goody goody who could not close his eyes to what he must have seen as corrupt fraud. I would assume Broadway has become filled with shady investment schemes because of the high risk, low profit margin in Broadway Theater today. So, dealing with goons like this squad of low brow producers must be the new normal on Broadway.

    It is nothing short of revolting how the producer has flipped the story to demonize and defame broadway’s most respected PR AGENT who was working for not a penny as an act of kindness for the broadway musical industry so that it may have a pulse again.

    So, to the writer of this article, I find your being on the fence about this story rather telling about your own inability to see past your own agenda or personal gain.

    Thibodeau was thinking of others every way you slice it. He was not able to make any move which could make him look good.

    So, if his crime was using an anonymous email to warn people, then hang him in the town square for what sounds like his fear of retaliation from the producer. It appears Thibodeau was right and this law suit is just another desperate attempt by the producer to raise money for a show he is obsessed to produce at any cost to anyone that gets in the way.

    Thibodeau should have called the FBI and then held a press conference explaining why he had to take such an action.

  • Ben Sprecher says:

    Dear Theatrelover,

    Unlike you I answer you without hiding behind a pseudonym.

    I am the head “goon” you refer to in your comment. Please feel free to call around to anyone in the theatre business in New York or London to see if your comment of me being the head “goon of a squad of low brow producers” is accurate. Furthermore , Mr Thibodeau was engagement as the press agent for REBECCA governed by a signed contract in which consideration (money) had been paid. That contract and the subsequent judgement against him for BREACH of that contract is available to you, as it is a matter of public record.

    Please feel free to contact me should you have any further question or to check your facts before making false and defamatory accusations

    Ben Sprecher
    Producer

    • Theaterlover says:

      Dear Mr. Preacher,

      Thanks so much for responding to my comment. The article asked for people’s opinions on the topic, so I gave mine.

      My parents don’t let me put my real name on the internet because I’m only 13. I have grown up in NYC
      and school at Convent of the Sacred Heart. I am of lover of the theater and my dream is to act and sing on Broadway.

      I must say i’m flattered to get a response from the actual producer top producer of this controversial show Rebecca. I loved the movie and so want to see it make it to broadway. I read above that the show will go on soon from one of your other comments. I’m sure my parents will be able to get premier tickets.

      I did ask my parents who are very active in the city’s cultural communities if they knew of you. They said they have never heard of you, but like my Dad said himself, ” That does not mean you are not very well known.

      I never referred to you as the head ” goon.” I did not ever pay close attention to the producers names, so I was not referring to anyone specifically.

      I was referring mostly to the man you worked with whom was put in prison for fraud. Was he your producing partner? How long did you know him? When you learned he had been convicted of fraud, did it concern you he may have done the same with your fund raising? At what point did you discover the fake investor was fake? Was it the guy in jail now that created the pretend investor? I read that the fake investor then died. If you didn’t know this person was fake, then you would have know way of knowing the money was not still invested right? If the person you thought was real died suddenly, I assume you’d have no reason to think that large investment would have been taken away since the man died suddenly and he would have had no way to take the investment away. I’m fascinated by this whole thing so I’ve decided to do a report of the case for my writing class. I’d like to do a very accurate, fact based report because I learned in class the best reporters work from only the true facts.

      My opinions in the first comment were based on reading the Vanity Fair article and then a press release from the man that you sued, who you have informed me in your reply to me WAS indeed on the payroll and DID have a written contract with you. That was not what I read, so my apologies if that which I read was false. As an investigative reporter the first thought which popped into my head at this moment is: It sure does not seem smart that the press agent you hired to promote your show would make a public statement saying he was not paid nor had a written contract with you, if not true. I mean it doesn’t take
      a brain surgeon to beg the question, the press agent Thibodeau had to know you could show as evidence
      proof of pay stubs and the signed written contract. For my school report could I get copies of any evidence which proves Thibodeau was paid as you stated and then a copy of the signed contract.
      That proof would help readers and my report to help show why a judge would indeed rule there was a breach of a contract.

      At what point did you and or Thibodeau discover the fake investor was fake? Who was it that then had a fake person pretend to then die? Whoever did this seems in this readers opinion to be the bad person.

      It reminds me of a story my Dad told me about where real estate developers say Condos are almost sold out, but actually have no sales. They say it is sold out so people feel safe to then buy in a building which they do not know is actually empty. My Dad explained how unethical this is. I agree.

      So what do you think was the motive behind the press agent to warn new investors to be careful?
      If you were investing would you want to know about such a situation in case you might be investing into something that had one guy who went to prison for fraud with a lot of others people’s money. Then of course the very strange situation of a fake pretend investor.

      Had you spoken with the fake investor? When you heard he died did you feel sad and try to reach his family or go to a funeral? How long did it take to learn he was not a real person. At what point did Thibodeau discover this? Did you tell him? Or, did he tell you? If he told you, what was your first reaction? What was the motive for who ever created the fake investor to create him? Did you know the person who connected you to the fake investor? Did whoever that person is say he made him up or is it a mystery of who or why anyone would create a fake investor?

      If I were in the position of the press agent, I think I would have gone directly to the head producer as you called yourself, and had a meeting where I’d say, this all seems very suspicious so what should we do? If either of you thought it was fraud, then don’t you think you both should have informed everyone involved?
      That should have been what a press agent releases, the news of the facts? At what point did you or the press agent discuss this crazy situation?

      I think it would have been better if the press agent told you and the media about this fake investor, then both of you should have informed all investors of the facts so they could then decide if it was still a smart project to be involved with. Maybe each of you did do this at some point? I have not found any facts of that.

      The article seems to be judging the press agent for using emails secretly to warn people. I agree he should have boldly reported this news with you to police, FBI, DA’s office etc..

      Maybe you both did?

      In the end it is sad that actors and art didn’t happen because of someone lying and creating the fake investor.

      Also if people learned the truth from a press agent wouldn’t they then trust producer and press agent more because you both were honest? Then maybe investors would have been more eager to invest money, especially if you both or all in the production had been deceived by whoever created the fake guy who then had a fake death.

      In my opinion the press agent isn’t someone you should hate so much. It seems like he was trying to do the honest thing. Since the investor was fake, that would mean that money was never real. How can you be mad about money which never existed. I understand the disappointment in learning such evil exists when all you want to do is put up art. I feel badly for all involved, except for the criminal behind bars and whoever made up the fake investor.

      I go to a catholic school and although I still am not sure if I believe in God, I learn that honesty and forgiving people are the most important beliefs in the cult my parents have put me in. A catholic school. Gag me. Although i love my teachers and the basic dogma of the teaching of jesus, whether he was real or more of a story to teach humanity lessons on how to live.

      So on that note my advice is to not hold on to anger and hate. Even though I don’t believe my prayers are ever answered, I will pray tonight that you and the press agent forgive and move forward. You should each realize you both wanted the same thing, a great story to be put up on stage. That is true art. Legal battles are the opposite of art.

      You and the press agent should meet and now with all of the press I bet together you could both raise so much money.

      I read the case of the breach of contract has been appealed. What does this mean in terms of getting attention back on what matters, getting the play you love on the stage?

      How close are you to going into production. I will pray for that too.

      I will pray that your show is a huge hit and that I get to go to opening night.

      I’m going to ask my Mom if she will let me try to write the movie version of the story around the play, Rebecca.

      If I could produce the movie of this story, my dream would be to end it where both you and the press agent go back to being partners who both love theater and art!

      Good luck! Please if you have time keep me updated.

      Thank you for replying to me and writing me that I could ask any questions which I have. I’m so excited to write my reporting project about this.

      Like Hamlet, “TO WHISTLE BLOW OR NOT, THAT IS THE QUESTION”. I think whistle blowing means to tell the truth, so I say blow whistles!

      Thank you and I have learned fact checking is crucial in reporting.

      So, I will now begin my school project and dig for the facts. I’m soooo excited.

      I am sorry about all that happened to all of you and sorry I commented just based on other things I’ve read in magazines and on the internet.

      Bye….and I still love the theater. Maybe this happened so one day you will give me a part in a huge musical.

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