A West Vancouver businessman who is a veteran of salvaging sunken ships and mopping-up oil spills wants to resurrect the Pemberton Music Festival and make it a celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary.
Joseph Spears of Horseshoe Bay Marine Group and 2 Narrows Productions says he has financial backers, sponsors and a U.S. concert producer ready to go. In a Monday interview with theBreaker, Spears said after the Victoria Day weekend, he contacted the Pemberton land owner — a company owned by a former director of the bankrupt festival — to seek an urgent meeting. But he is puzzled why there is no rush to sit down and discuss his proposal.
“I just can’t believe they’re not making any efforts,” Spears said.
On May 18, the July 11-16, Huka Entertainment-produced festival was cancelled and declared bankrupt after selling $8.225 million in tickets. The rising cost of U.S. performers and the low loonie were blamed. A meeting of creditors is scheduled for June 6 at Robson Square in Vancouver.
“We can still work to that July 11 date, if we get some response by the next two or three days,” Spears said.
Trustee Ernst and Young says $13.17 million is owed to unsecured creditors, mostly ticketholders. The two secured creditors, 1644609 Alberta Ltd. and Janspec Holdings Ltd., claim a combined $3.7 million. The festival had $6.6 million in assets, including $2.9 million cash.
Spears has hired Vancouver insolvency lawyer David Lunny, a co-owner of Drumkeeran House in Pemberton, to represent him. Spears said his group could buy or lease the land so that the concert could proceed. He once assisted a consortium proposing a private school for the Sunstone Ridge Developments-owned land. Under Spears’ plan, tickets bought through May 18 would be honoured.
Amanda Girling, a director of both Janspec and Sunstone, and two others quit the board of the festival’s general partner, 1115666 B.C. Ltd., the week before the cancellation. Sunstone’s 273 acres in Pemberton, which includes the festival site, are advertised for sale at $16.8 million.
“This is basically a blight on B.C., tourism is affected by this, community is affected by this, the [ticket holders] are going to lose the funds that were advanced, the suppliers, all those small business people, I thought that was wrong, so let’s make this happen and rock on,” Spears said.
Girling has not responded to messages from theBreaker. Her lawyer, William Skelly, said by email that he expected to speak with Spears’ lawyer on Monday night. “We have had some difficulty connecting with Mr. Spears lawyer.”
Girling and her brother Jeremy Turner are directors of both Janspec and Sunstone, companies they founded in 2009 with their father Clifford Turner. Clifford Turner, a co-founder of British packaging giant Linpac, died in 2015 before his 95th birthday.
Spears has a message for Skelly and Girling.
“I’d say reconsider your position, there is a whole lot of people out there, well over 18,000 people, that are going to create a lot of friction. So let’s move forward, let’s work together, all bankruptcies are unfortunate,” Spears said. “Let’s get through this and make this Canada 150 reboot concert a reality in 2017.”