2 more leaving BSO top ranks

Exits of chairman, general manager round out changes


With two more changes announced yesterday, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra concludes a turnover of upper management that began with the sudden resignation of President and Chief Executive Officer James Glicker in January.

Philip D. English, chairman of the board of directors, who played a major role in hiring Glicker and the BSO's next music director, Marin Alsop, will not stand for re-election in June after a single, three-year term. (His predecessor, Buddy Zamoiski, served 15 years as chairman).

Vice president and general manager Karen Swanson, who is responsible for day-to-day operations of the orchestra, has resigned effective June 30.

"I don't see any reason to think the two things are connected," English said.

W. Gar Richlin, the BSO's interim president, agreed, saying, "It's purely coincidental."

The two departures come two weeks before formal negotiations on a new musicians contract are expected to begin.

"I don't think [the changes] are going to impact those discussions," Richlin said. "Neither Phil nor Karen were going to be leading them. They were going to be more in the background."

English, who joined the board in 1984 and became chairman in 2003, has been at the helm during tough financial challenges.

To address steeply rising debt, the board approved last month an unusual plan to use nearly one-third of the orchestra's $90 million endowment to pay off more than $16 million in accumulated deficits and to provide cash reserves for next season. The remaining endowment and the orchestra's real estate holdings are being moved to a separate trust administered by an independent board.

English, who sent a letter to the BSO board of directors Wednesday announcing his plans, said he expects to remain involved with the orchestra, possibly as a trustee for the new endowment.

He said his decision not to seek a second term was related to his family business, Broventure, a venture capital company involved in cattle ranching, real estate and gas and oil development.

"I had an opportunity to buy out other shareholders," English said. "Once I do that, I'll need to concentrate all my energies on the company, which is the key to my family's financial future.

"There is no way I can avoid that. The [BSO] job is pretty much full time and, given the challenges and opportunities the orchestra faces in the future, I don't see any sense to having a part-time chairman."

Swanson, who joined the BSO in 2002, declined to comment.

Richlin said he didn't ask why Swanson decided to leave. "And I don't want to speculate," he said. "It's a very demanding job, and she really worked very, very hard. She was incredibly tireless."

Praise for two

Jane Marvine, head of the BSO players committee, said in an e-mail message to The Sun: "Karen worked tirelessly and dedicated a significant part of her career to the BSO. We wish her continued success."

Marvine said of English, "His dedication and perseverance through these past few years has been steadfast and selfless. We hope that he will continue to champion the BSO to our community."

Richlin informed the staff yesterday morning of Swanson's resignation, saying that she "plans to take some time off before looking for her next adventure."

"My sense is that morale is getting better," Richlin said. "Could it be better? Yes. Am I sensitive to it? Yes."

Asked whether the departures of Swanson and English will affect morale, Richlin said, "Some will view these changes as positive; some won't."

English expressed no regrets.

"I am pleased with my relationship with the orchestra," he said. "In all my time here, I certainly haven't felt a lack of support from any constituency of the BSO. I depart with good feelings."

English pointed to positive developments during his tenure, including an increase in ticket sales and government funding, "a planned giving program that has generated almost $5 million in pledges to the endowment" and, especially, the hiring of a music director to succeed Yuri Temirkanov, whose tenure ends this season.

`Important role'

"The night I pitched Marin Alsop the job was one of the most gratifying of my tenure," English said. "I know in my heart of hearts I played an important role here."

A new board chairman will be voted on in June, and a search for a new general manager will begin immediately.

A new vice president for development, a position that has been vacant for several months, might be announced within a few weeks, Richlin said.


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