Peter Nero, Philly Pops at impasse over contract

“Peter Nero and the Philly Pops” might lose its namesake.

The Pops’ parent company, Encore Series, Inc., has been trying since April 3 to renegotiate its existing contract with Peter Nero. If an agreement is not reached, a bankruptcy judge may allow ESI to reject it outright.

Encore Series, Inc. used to be partnered with the Philadelphia Orchestra. When the Orchestra went into bankruptcy 13 months ago, ESI also went into bankruptcy.

The two nonprofit companies have since parted ways. In order to emerge from its own bankruptcy as a solvent, independent company, all contracts have been reassessed and renegotiated. Nero’s is the last one.

“This year, he was paid a half million dollars,” said ESI president Frank Giordano. “Last year, ticket revenue was a $1.5 million. That’s 33 percent of our ticket revenue going to our conductor. It’s not feasible. As a model, it just doesn’t work.”

Nero claims the $500,000 figure is misleading, saying he was paid to $393,000 with additional benefits.

Nero, who helped found the Philly Pops in 1979, and has been the face of the organization since then. The 78-year-old has two years left on his contract, and has no intention of leaving before then.

In negotiations he offered to perform fewer times at the same pay per performance, and says ESI countered with an offer of fewer performances at less pay per concert.

“After doing this for 55 years, I’ve built up the price to the point where the rest of the industry should know what I’m worth,” said Nero. “In this profession, image is everything. If they perceive you as cutting your price because you have to work, there’s a conflict with that kind of thinking.”

Nero says negotiations have turned to screaming fights. If an agreement cannot be reached, Encore Series, Inc., will move to reject the existing contract in bankruptcy court. Giordano says the upcoming season will go on. In a worst-case scenario, he says, that will be without Nero.

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