Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Center, Company of Fools considering merger

Organizationsí boards vote to study potential alliance


By GREGORY FOLEY
Express Staff Writer

Sally Boettger

Two of the Wood River Valley's premier arts organizations are exploring the possibility of a merger.

Ketchum-based Sun Valley Center for the Arts and the Hailey-based Company of Fools theater group announced Friday that the two organizations' boards of directors voted separately April 9 to study whether a merger would be feasible and beneficial.

Sally Boettger, co-executive director of The Center, said a task force is being formed to conduct the study, with assistance from a Virginia-based consultant experienced in mergers of arts organizations. Due diligence—a process of investigation undertaken by organizations prior to an investment or merger—is scheduled to commence on May 15, Boettger said.

"At this point, we're only in discussions," Boettger said. "The outcomes are not predetermined."

Boettger said there is no set timeline for completing the analysis of a merger, but noted that both organizations "want to keep it moving."

"It will take the time that it takes," she said. "We don't want to put the cart before the horse."

Denise Simone, a senior actor and administrator of Company of Fools, said the decision to study an alliance with The Center will not affect the organization in the near future.

"Right now, it's truly business as usual," she said. "Our doors are open and we're excited about our 17th season."

Day-to-day business will be the same at The Center, as well, Boettger said. The organization's schedule—which is planned well into 2013—will not be altered by the decision to study a merger.

Neither Boettger nor Simone would speculate as to what a partnership of the two organizations would mean and what it might look like. Those types of details would come out of the due diligence process if the organizations decided to pursue a merger, they said.

Nonetheless, both Boettger and Simone said they are positive about the boards' actions.

"We're thrilled about the possibility of moving forward," Boettger said.

The nonprofit Sun Valley Center for the Arts, founded in 1971, is the oldest arts organization in the Wood River Valley. It offers exhibits, lectures, classes and performing arts events. Company of Fools was started in Richmond, Va., in 1992. It moved to Hailey in 1996 and has since produced dozens of plays at the Liberty Theatre. Both organizations also have education programs.

Greg Foley: gfoley@mtexpress.com




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