BUSINESS Minister Simon Coveney’s brother Rory was the “driving force” behind flop Toy Show The Musical, a new report reveals.
And the former RTE Director of Strategy said it would have been “unthinkable” to cancel the €2.2million failure despite warnings over poor early sales.
The new probe into the Toy Show The Musical scandal also reveals:
- RTE Board Chair Moya Doherty claimed the Board approved the ill-fated project — despite no vote ever taking place.
- BOARD members say the show was presented as a “fait accompli” just weeks before the dud production was due to be launched.
- BOSSES were warned nine out of ten musicals make a loss at the very start of the planning process.
- AND fewer shows were put up for sale than the number calculated as needed to break even.
Toy Show The Musical has been blasted for its shocking failures in governance and finances after execs ignored external advice and signed expensive contracts without approval.
The State broadcaster also moved €75,000 worth of TV advertising money into the “sponsorship” of the ill-fated project in a bid to make the huge losses look marginally better.
A Grant Thornton report into the musical’s development named and shamed those involved in the formation of the dud show.
The idea came from a drive from within RTE to hold more live events and was picked up by Mr Coveney, who resigned last July.
He got advice from independent consultants on the plan to run a musical.
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But Mr Coveney was warned that musicals were “notoriously difficult”, that the Christmas market was already well served and the project could damage the prized Toy Show brand.
Ex-Riverdance producer Julian Erskine told him at the very start of the process that nine out of ten musicals end up in the red.
He offered up the advice after being recommended by Ms Doherty, who founded Riverdance.
The report revealed the showbiz producer was “extremely positive about the Toy Show Live” but noted the project was “very easily accepted” by RTE and there was “no forensic interrogation of the figures”.
Mr Coveney initially predicted there would be 44 shows and if they sold 80 per cent of the tickets they’d break even.
This was later amended to 54 shows, with 70 per cent of ticket sales required to break even.
However, at no point was there more than 34 shows put up for sale for Toy Show The Musical, which was eventually cancelled due to poor sales. In the first few weeks of being put up for grabs, only 8,000 tickets were sold.
Mr Erskine expressed concerns and queried whether RTE would pull the show.
However, Mr Coveney said cancelling the musical would have been “unthinkable”.
He said: “Any new creative project, show or concert needs time to sell and it was unthinkable that the show would have been pulled at that late stage following a development process that began in 2020. Not only would it not have made any sense to pull the show a couple of weeks after going on sale, but it would have also have implications beyond the financial in terms of reputation, confidence and market credibility.”
The RTE Board have come under fire over their handling of the show given they have to sign off on all projects that cost over €2million.
However, several members claim they were never asked to approve Toy Show The Musical. Instead, they said it was presented as a “fait accompli” just weeks before RTE were due to launch the show.
Ex-Director General Dee Forbes — who did not work with Grant Thorton on the report — finally told the Board about the show at a meeting in April 2022 but did not provide figures or documentation.
One member, PJ Mathews, said: “This was the first time I had heard of Toy Show The Musical. I had no information about it.”
The following month, the Board were given documentation about expected figures but were still not asked to sign off on the project — a clear breach of the rules. Ms Doherty admitted they were required to approve the project but she claims that it was OK’d given no one opposed the project.
The former chair said: “The project was presented on the 28 April 2022 by the Executive to the Board and every Board member had the opportunity to ask questions, raise objections or disapprove of the project.
“There were no objections to the proposed expenditure at the meeting where the presentation was made or thereafter at any other Board meeting.”
She added: “The Board was required to approve all expenditure over €2million.
“Toy Show The Musical was budgeted to cost in excess of that hence the Board was asked to approve it.
“Every Board member had the opportunity to ask questions, raise objections or disapprove of the project. There were no objections raised by any Board member to the proposed expenditure.
“The practice at Board meetings was to reach consensus if possible and if a consensus was reached no formal vote was taken.”
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RTE’s new boss Kevin Bakhurst will appear at the Oireachtas Media Committee to be quizzed on the Toy Show The Musical mess. He will be joined by other RTE execs.
However, Mr Coveney and Mr Doherty both turned down an invitation to appear and are not required to attend as they are no longer in their RTE roles.