Sky man to take over ENO
Former television executive Stuart Murphy is to be the new CEO in succession to Cressida Pollock in the latest chapter of English National Opera’s turbulent story.
Under Pollock, a management consultant by background, ENO turned a corner after losing its Arts Council portfolio status in 2015 with a much-reduced annual grant. She declared that her principal aim was to get back its ACE recognition, and in her three years in charge have been tumultuous, but with a firm business plan, a £1.2m project to open out the space in its West End home, the Coliseum, and draconian cost cutting the company was seen to be back on track, with ACE restoring it to its portfolio for 2018-21.
ENO has a long history of financial ups and downs, and artistic triumphs with bold productions that were not always box office successes. There was a period of stability under Pollock’s predecessor, Loretta Tomasi, who left in December 2013; Henriette Götz, came as executive director but stayed less than a year. In 2015, the chairman resigned and at the board’s request, management consultants McKinsey put in Miss Pollock to carry out a pro bono business plan study, and within weeks John Berry, the mercurial artistic director for ten years, left by mutual agreement before Pollock’s position was established on a three year contract. Harry Brünjes took over as chairman.
“The Arts Council’s role is to ensure that we get the best value for the taxpayer’s money by investing in well run companies who delight audiences with brilliant work” said Darren Henley, ACE’s CEO, at the time. “ENO is capable of extraordinary artistic work, and we look forward to seeing further improvements in its governance and business model.”
Then in 2016 music director Mark Wigglesworth resigned over cuts to the chorus, who had threatened to strike when it was announced that numbers would be reduced from 44 to 40, and contracts by 25%.
Having weathered that storm, earlier this year Pollock announced she would not be renewing her contract wand would leave in June. “When I arrived, the ENO was in crisis and the company's survival was in real doubt” she said. “I am delighted that we have brought stability and secured ENO's future. My successor will be able to focus on ensuring that the ENO continues to produce award-winning work at the heart of the UK opera scene.”
Brunjes credited her with turning around ENO’s fortunes and putting together a new leadership – with artistic director Daniel Kramer and music director Martyn Brabbins.
Stuart Murphy is a former controller of BBC3where he commissioned such comedy hits as Liuttle Britain and Early Doors. He was Sky’s director of entertainment channels from 2012 to 2015, and the joined the distribution division, Sky Vision.
“I am personally committed to ensuring that ENO continues to develop new audiences, new partnerships and on new platforms in order to ensure that the company remains as thrilling and vital now as it was when it was first founded” he said on his appointment.
The appointment has also been welcomed by the Arts Council. “Stuart will bring a wealth of experience and energy to the role, building on all the dedication and hard work of Cressida and the team which has enabled English National Opera to return to our national portfolio” said Henley.