BY BILLY SUTER
AFTER a lambasting on Facebook from people stung by the weekend’s shock closure in Durban of the touring Splash water circus from Russia, South African promoter Matthew Cook, who was reported to have “fled with millions”, has posted a Facebook video statement.
It was reported in Independent on Saturday, under the headline “Shock as Joburg promoter flees circus with millions”, that the show was closed at the weekend, after having been scheduled to run at the Natal Command site in Durban until October 21. The news, which ignited social media, left many people angry and demanding an explanation.
He had reached the point where he needed to set the record straight, Cook says in a video posted to his Facebook page, adding that he is handling the situation through “correct channels”, and filed the video because of “overwhelming slander” and to place clarity on the matter.
He says full financial statements are being prepared which will include all payments, both inward and outward, to his company, Casino Entertainment, to date.
Johannesburg-based Cook and his Casino Entertainment agreed on a partnership with an international promoter to tour the Splash circus, which got off to a rocky start, and some bad reviews, last month when the show was presented in Gauteng with some key cast members having not yet arrived in South Africa.
Cook explains that he opted to terminate the partnership with the international promoters as his company was being held liable for all local debts which were considerably more than projected ticket sales.
He disclosed that more than R6million is owed to performers, suppliers and other employees – including, as Cook reveals later in his video, R190 000 to one artist and R42 000 to another; more than R260 000 to a company that provided metal work for the show; and R45 000 to Johannesburg publicist Collett Dawson.
Projected ticket sales for the show amounted to R500 000 at the time his company requested to withdraw from the production, says Cook, who says he can assure everybody he has not “fled” and does not have “millions”, as reported.
He adds that all tickets for future performances are currently being refunded by Computicket, which Cook says is “holding all funds for shows which have passed, to ensure no money is released to my company or any other parties until this matter has been resolved through the correct channels”.
“I’ll never get caught up in a slander campaign. I believe the truth is what truth is, and people can make decisions on truth and fact once that comes out,” he says.
He says many of the Splash circus suppliers, artists and other employees have been left without work by the tour cancellation.
Legal action was pending and his company was being held liable as it is the only legal entity in South Africa associated with the show, says Cook.
“Along with discussions with my international partner, I willingly offered and instructed Computicket to allow performances to continue, as long as the production, moving forward, was removed from my management and placed into the management of the international promoter.
“I contacted all my suppliers and contractors and advised them I would no longer be involved, and requested they negotiate directly with the international promoter should they wish to continue with the show, moving forward.”
Cook says in a message to a Facebook friend: “I believe in transparency and it highlights that I was willing to hand over, without any reservations, my 50% share in the future success of the tour.
“It does not, however, highlight the fact that to date, every cost has been contracted to my company and that local suppliers who are owed millions (actual figures), are legally contracted to my company and are not being paid, and are taking legal action against myself.
“I have never tried to stop the show continuing and never tried to run away with millions as reported. I was more than willing for Weber Brothers to continue with the tour and even tried my best to facilitate this process with suppliers so as to keep the artists in work.”