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Monday, June 17, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Bard Players Avert Plague on Their House

(CN) - A judge has blocked the eviction of Shakespeare Theatre Co., but the players' landlord said the ruling also thwarted an "attempted hostile takeover" of its board of directors.

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For its 25-year anniversary in 2012, the Shakespeare Theatre received a Tony Award honoring its regional theater productions of the classics of antiquity, the Renaissance and the modern era.

But the Lansburgh Theatre, its supporting organization in Washington, D.C., allegedly marked the occasion by demanding a nearly seven-fold hike in contributions for the charitable trust that funds building improvements.

In a lawsuit, the Shakespeare Theatre called the demand "exorbitant and irrational given that the current balance in the reserve account exceeds the amount an independent consultant retained by [Lansburgh] has determined will be needed for several years."

When the Shakespeare Theatre refused to pay, Lansburgh director Kenneth Krozy allegedly tried to banish the Bard-loving entity from the theater.

According to the complaint, Krozy managed the renovation of the building where the theater is housed, which is owned by Boston-based developer Graham Gund.

The Shakespeare Theatre claims that Gund and his employees want to pull both theaters away from their charitable missions toward more profitable condominium sales.

On Tuesday, D.C. Superior Court Judge John Ramsey Johnson issued a preliminary injunction barring Gund, Krozy and five other defendants from "taking any action to evict or displace plaintiff Shakespeare Theatre Company."

Randy Miller, the Shakespeare Theatre's lawyer at the firm Arnold & Porter, told Courthouse News in a phone interview that the Lansburgh is one of their courtroom opponents but also an apparent "victim" of Gund.

That sentiment also comes across in the conciliatory statement Miller made Tuesday.

"The order entered today provides protection and security for the Shakespeare Theatre Company and safeguards a cultural treasure, the Lansburgh Theatre," Miller said in the statement.

On Wednesday, just one day after this ruling, the Lansburgh announced in an abbreviation-filled statement that the same judge had rejected the Shakespeare Theatre's "attempted hostile takeover" of its board of directors.

"Prior to this litigation, LTI had not filed any eviction action against STC and was attempting to negotiate a resolution that would keep STC in the Lansburgh Theater," the Lansburgh said in a statement. "Rather than using its funds to make much-needed repairs at the theater, however, STC elected to sue LTI, the charitable organization that owns the theater, and two of its directors."

The Lansburgh also claims that it essentially agreed to the terms of the injunction three months ago and never tried to evict the Shakespeare Theatre.

But Miller, the Shakespeare Theatre's attorney, said that the Lansburgh was off base.

"We won everything, and they lost everything," Miller said.

While Miller said that the judge plans to mull the fate of the Lansburgh directors in January, the Lansburgh's representative paints a different picture.

Chris Lisi, speaking for the Lansburgh, insisted the judge already denied the directors' ouster in a bench ruling Wednesday.

A physical copy of the ruling is not yet available, she said.

In one possible way to reconcile the competing narratives, Miller indicated that the judge could rule to restrict the directors' activities on the board, without ordering them to step down.

Meanwhile, the Shakespeare Theatre's managing director Chris Jennings took a post-injunction bow to his organization's audience.

"We are pleased that the court ruled in our favor [Tuesday]," Jennings said. "This is a victory for not only the Shakespeare Theatre Company, but for our patrons, supporters, and the people of Washington, D.C., who have shown their unwavering support during this time."

The parties will meet again for oral arguments on Jan. 10, 2013, three weeks before the opening of the Shakespeare Theatre's production of Eugene O'Neill's "Hughie."

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