Just months prior to the completion of the MSG Sphere behind the Venetian, Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp. (NYSE: MSGE) chairman James Dolan has removed two top executives in charge of the over-budget $2.2 billion venture, as per a New York Post article published Tuesday night.
An image of the over-budget MSG Sphere in Las Vegas, which will be overseen through its construction conclusion by a different team. (Image: TheStreet.com )
The newspaper, citing an internal memo it procured, reported that Dolan sacked MSG Sphere president Lucas Watson and MSG Sphere senior manager of business operations Jenna Wolfenson late Tuesday, and that he intends to personally direct the project’s construction endgame.
Watson, formerly the General Manager of self-driving company Cruise, was brought on last March to lead the strategy and execution of all business aspects of the site.
In the memo, as per the Post’s report, Dolan stated he is “streamlining the organization to perform more productively with brand strategy and partnerships by leveraging its expertise across its family of companies.” At the same time, Dolan also mentioned he was introducing new members. According to the memo, Guy Barnett, former Chief Creative Officer at the Brooklyn Brothers creative agency, has been selected to lead brand strategy and creative development, and David Hopkinson, the president of MSG Sports, will “help guide the Sphere.”
The Sphere has been plagued by cost overruns, with MSGE recently announcing that high inflation raised the Sphere cost by $175 million to $2.175 billion.
On Sunday, MSG advertised the Sphere with an expensive Super Bowl commercial promoting U2, the Irish rock band expected to inaugurate the venue with a residency in September.
The Tao of the Spin-Off
This unexpected restructuring comes only a month after MSGE confirmed that it’s spinning off its live entertainment business, while retaining the MSG Sphere, MSG Networks, and Tao Group Hospitality businesses. The process is planned to be finalized by the end of March.
On Dec. 6, MSGE declared it would separate its live entertainment business – including its namesake arena, Radio City Music Hall, and the Beacon Theatre in New York City – from the MSG Sphere and Tao Group, which would be combined with MSG Networks into a single, publicly traded company to be known as MSG Sphere Corp. (