Around this time of year, posters for the JVC Jazz Festival would be appearing on the streets of New York, and jazz tourists would be finalizing plans to arrive in the middle of June for two weeks of bragworthy shows.
But for the first time in 37 years, there will be no major summer jazz festival in New York. Nor will there be related series in Miami or Chicago, as the concert company behind them is suffering a financial crisis.
At stake is one of the most celebrated legacies in American music. Two years ago the impresario George Wein sold his company, Festival Productions, to a group led by Chris Shields, a charismatic entrepreneur who planned to transform Mr. Wein’s empire through aggressive growth. Now that plan has all but collapsed, as Mr. Shields’s company, Festival Network, has lost its top sponsor, as well as several signature festivals, delivering what many call a painful blow to jazz.
In an interview Mr. Shields, 38, largely blamed the economy for his company’s woes. “I’ll certainly take criticism for the robust growth plan,” he said. “It may have been too robust for the time. I think if we weren’t faced with this economy, we would have been just fine.”
But business associates and former employees, many of whom would not comment publicly because the company still owes them money, say that Festival Network overspent on booking talent and took unnecessary risks, including opening four new festivals last summer without securing sufficient sponsorship.
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