If it had happened in the for-profit world, said Redwood City businessman Eric Lochtefeld, the way he and his wife Lori rode to the rescue of Broadway By The Bay would be called an acquisition.
As it is, the Lochtefelds are now two of the five members of the 47-year-old theater company's reorganized board of directors, and Broadway By The Bay is relocating its offices from San Mateo to the Lochtefelds' office space in Redwood City.
The Lochtefelds are putting plenty of money into the deal -- from $250,000 to $300,000, Lochtefeld said during an interview Tuesday. And it is not just altruism, although he cites that as a factor. It's also a good business deal, he said, because Broadway By The Bay is a major user of the Lochtefelds' Fox Theatre, which they acquired in 2010.
Broadway By The Bay has been having financial problems for some time. In February, the company launched its "SOS -- Save Our Shows" campaign, an effort to raise $500,000 to eliminate an existing deficit and create a cushion for future seasons. Whatever came in from that apparently was not enough. In July, the board terminated the contract of executive director Jim Gardia.
Artistic director Amanda Folena and development director Trista Bernstein were given his responsibilities. Publicly, Folena said Broadway By The Bay was going through a "transitional period," adding, "The company will determine the best structure moving forward to present the highest level of art and
Privately, Folena and Bernstein approached the Lochtefelds, Eric Lochtefeld explained, asking for some kind of help like maybe a reduction in rents for staging shows at the Fox. There were rumors last week that Folena and Bernstein had also left, or been pushed out. Board president Jeff Uccelli refused to comment earlier this week, saying only that he had been "enduring countless emails due to the vacancies" at Broadway By The Bay.
On Monday, Lori Lochtefeld told The Daily News that Folena and Bernstein are both part of the company's plans.
"There was a lot of drama" around the situation, said Eric Lochtefeld. "Jim Gardia just picked up and left, without people knowing what was going on ... you have Amanda and Trista put in that situation, they have to come to me, they are my anchor tenant. There were rumors the board was contemplating just closing shop."
So the Lochtefelds started "digging into the financials" and decided it would make sense for them to get more involved.
"At the end of the day," said Eric Lochtefeld, "I wanted to know that the real problems had been solved, and not just have Band-Aid solutions. Lori and I needed to know where they really stood, and it became clear that financially, this needed to be cleaned up and run differently."
Broadway By The Bay needed an immediate "infusion of capital," Lochtefeld said, to deal with existing debt, and was just a week away from even bigger debt because a payment was coming due for the rights for the company's next show, "A Chorus Line," which is to open in September.
"What was killing Broadway By The Bay was not ticket sales or content," Lochtefeld said. "What was killing it was overhead."
He said the company was using too much of its budget on overhead and what he called "marketing that wasn't working."
But "Lori and I thought they had a good name" and that it could be saved, he added.
"We felt we could provide some help. We have the infrastructure -- the box office, the marketing team -- and could save 55 cents out of the 65 cents out of a dollar they were spending on overhead. .... It made sense to us to save it, for altruistic reasons and for business reasons."
So the Lochtefelds have essentially taken over, although Broadway By The Bay remains a nonprofit operation.
"This is a classic acquisition," said Lochtefeld. "It's the way you take over the board, hit the ground running."
Going forward, Bernstein is now the interim executive director of Broadway By The Bay, and she and Folena will see to the staging of "A Chorus Line," which is to open Sept. 22 for an abbreviated, eight-performance run. A search is under way for a new executive director, and Bernstein is one of the candidates for that job, Lochtefeld said.
After that, Lochtefeld said, they expect to produce two or three shows a year until the San Mateo Performing Arts Center's $25 million renovation is completed in 2013 or 2014. Then they'll produce what Lochtefeld describes as shows from "the golden age of musical theater, timeless classics that appeal to fans of that era" at the San Mateo venue, probably two shows a year. And he expects Broadway By The Bay will stage another three, more modern musicals at the Fox each year, in addition to a holiday season show. "Our goal is to produce six high-quality theatrical runs per year," he said.
"Every business has its ups and downs," said Lori Lochtefeld. "We felt very strongly that Broadway By The Bay should not become yet another casualty of the recession. As with the Fox, we felt compelled to act. Some things are just worth saving, and this beloved company is one of the Bay Area's true artistic treasures."
Meredith Hagedorn, managing artistic director of Dragon Productions Theatre Company, which has just moved from Palo Alto to a 75-seat theater less than a block from the Fox, said she knows Broadway By The Bay is "doing everything they can to bounce back. I hope they will."