An investigation by Toronto Star reporter Kevin Donovan has revealed that Canadian concert promoter Michael Cohl spent years cheating bands by charging them for a non-existent tax on shows at Toronto's CNE Stadium. The "tax" cost bands, including the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Van Halen, Bob Dylan, Aerosmith, and U2, and the fans to whom it was passed along, $5 million. Toronto police are now investigating.
The problem goes way beyond Cohl, though. According to PollStar, investigators have already identified several employees of the government authorities who run the Stadium, as well as former Ticketmaster executive Gregory Tomlinson, as being aware of the scam. Tomlinson even told the Star that he had gone into settlements to tell tour accountants (who represent bands) that the tax was legit.
Cohl is not an ordinary promoter. His Concert Productions International (CPI) ran the entire 1994 Stones tour, and he has been an international factor in the concert promotion business for years, often brokering his services along with those of various corporate sponsors. In addition, until recently, Cohl was a financial partner in the Gold Mountain artist management company, formerly run by Mercury Records chief Danny Goldberg.
Last year, Cohl sold CPI to Labatt, the major Canadian brewery, but he remains a concert promoter of significance--Jane Rose, manager of the Rolling Stones, has already announced that the group will continue to work with him.
Indeed, Cohl can probably continue to do business with just about all these acts. The promoter claims that the "tax" money was in fact passed along to CNE, and that he had an official agreement to pay it: so far, no records have been produced to show that this is true. No matter what, though, the acts would probably have no problem if he agreed to reimburse them for the phony expenses, which amounted to as much as $200,000 per show. This would leave the fans once more holding the bag, since no one is likely to reimburse them.
[from Rock & Rap Confidential/1996].
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