HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu (HawaiiNewsNow) – The University of Hawaii, apparently the victim of scammers, was forced to cancel a Stevie Wonder concert scheduled as a UH athletics fundraiser next month at Stan Sheriff Center.
UH athletic officials had hoped the concert would raise up to $250,000 for the athletic program, which is in the red, but now UH could lose a $200,000 deposit it paid for the event that fell through.
About 6,000 people bought seats since tickets went on sale to the public last Friday and UH expected a sellout of up to 11,000 concert goers.
But then Monday, UH got word from Wonder's agent, Creative Artists Agency of Los Angeles, that the singer was not available for the August 18 concert at UH Manoa, even though tickets had already gone on sale.
"The event was booked by an unauthorized third party without the knowledge or consent of Mr. Wonder's representatives. They were very sorry to have to inform him of his unavailability," said UH Athletic Director Jim Donovan at a late-afternoon news conference Tuesday.
The UH will refund all ticket holders, Donovan said. Those who bought seats on-line or by phone will have their credit cards automatically refunded in about seven days. People who purchased tickets from the Stan Sheriff Center box office can get a refund from the box office starting Wednesday.
"Unfortunately, concerts don't happen. It's becoming more and more of a regularity. And that's what this case is. The concert's not happening," said Donovan. "It would have been great if we could have raised some funds out of it, but everything's going to be refunded and we'll be fine."
The UH is demanding a refund of $200,000 it paid as a deposit for the concert, "sent on behalf of a local promoter," Donovan said. He identified the promoter as Bob Peyton, of BPE Productions.
"Any cancellation was done without my agreement," Peyton said via email late Tuesday. Creative Artists Agency "has no role in this show and the UH administration was stampeded by a power LA agency."
Asked what happened, Peyton said, "The UH sent a direct wire transfer (of $200,000) from state funds to the booking agent's escrow account. I too wired $50,000 of my company's funds to the same account to hold my agreement with the UH."
"Because of the UH's untimely cancellation, they put my 50k in jeopardy too," Peyton said.
Peyton claimed he signed a deal with a company called Epic-Talent, whom he referred to as "Stevie's agents on this matter."
At UH's Bachman Hall earlier Tuesday afternoon, Donovan met with UH President MRC Greenwood and UH Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple to discuss the situation.
Asked if UH was going to be out of some money, Apple told Hawaii News Now, "I hope not. I can't tell you, yet."
Sources said Greenwood did not know about the concert deal before it was announced by UH athletic officials in late June and she was upset that it had fallen apart.
Someone claiming to be Wonder's "European representative" claimed to have booked the deal, but the performer's only agent is Creative Artists Agency in Los Angeles, a source said.
Privately, UH officials said this embarrassing episode could be a firing offense for Donovan, who oversaw the deal. The five-year contract that pays him about $240,000 a year as athletic director expires next March.
Asked who at UH authorized the concert deal and signed the contract, Donovan said, "I'm not going to comment on that at this time," and then he ended a news conference that lasted less than five minutes.