New York City Opera Says It Has Possiblilty for ‘Merger’

New York City Opera, which filed for bankruptcy court protection last week after years of management missteps, told a judge at least one other cultural institution may be interested in buying some of its operations.

The entity, which wasn’t named, was referred to as a “potential partner” or a “potential merger candidate” by the opera’s lawyer, Kenneth Rosen, today in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan. The opera also has a potential nonprofit buyer for its costume thrift shop, he said.

“A few cultural institutions are interested in preserving some aspect of the opera,” Rosen, of Lowenstein Sandler LLP in New York, said at the hearing. “We are entertaining everything” and will provide details “in the not too distant future.”

The opera company, created 70 years ago as the “people’s opera” because of its affordable tickets, filed a Chapter 11 petition on Oct. 3 after it failed to meet an emergency online fundraising goal of $7 million. The nonprofit organization, which this year produced “Anna Nicole,” about the late tabloid celebrity, listed as much as $10 million in assets and debt in court filings and said it will liquidate.

The opera also asked U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Sean Lane to let it refund about $323,000 in pre-paid opera tickets and pay laid off workers for their unused vacation time. Lawyers for union musicians objected today, saying their wages may need to come first. The opera said the money doesn’t belong to them.

The judge put off ruling on the motions and scheduled another hearing for Oct. 24.

Office Space

Rosen, who has been representing the opera for free for about two years, said his law firm offered its own office space to the opera’s remaining employees at no charge. The opera laid off most of its workers after deciding to wind down in court.

In 2011-12, the last year for which results are available, ticket sales were $1.1 million, down 87 percent from 2005-06.

The case is New York City Opera Inc., 13-13240, U.S Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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