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Ex-Sonisphere promoter Harry Sprenger sentenced

Veteran Swiss promoter Harry Sprenger, whose Free & Virgin Group went into liquidation in October 2011, has been handed a 20-month suspended sentence by a Zurich court after being found guilty of fraud and financial mismanagement.

Sprenger – who also promoted the local leg of the now-defunct Sonisphere festival through his Outfield Productions (OP) company – was additionally sentenced to three years’ probation after a cantonal court ruled on 7 April he had deliberately misrepresented the profitability of Sonisphere and under-reported concert revenues to collection society Suisa, which accused him in 2012 of causing “seven-digit losses to composers, lyricists and publishers”.

Sprenger (pictured) was ordered to pay Suisa 500,000 Fr. (€466,780).

According to Swiss news agency ATS, weak ticket sales for Sonisphere 2011 (headlined by Iron Maiden, Slipknot and Alice Cooper) were a major contributor to the bankruptcy of both Free & Virgin and Outfield Productions.

“We reduced costs and changed the location. I felt like it was going to work out”

The canton’s public prosecutor described how only 10,000 of a possible 30,000 tickets were sold during the pre-sale; to make up the shortfall, Sprenger took 250,000 Fr. out of Free & Virgin and lent it to OP. This, argued the prosecutor, “destroyed the two companies”, with the festival clearly unprofitable and Sprenger having no way to pay back the loan.

However, Sprenger countered that that he had done everything in his power to make the festival a success. “We reduced costs and changed the location,” he told the court, according to ATS. “I felt like it was going to [work out].” He added that cancelling Sonisphere would have also led to the bankruptcy of Free & Virgin.

Sprenger, now at ACT Entertainment, did not return a request for comment.


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