He took over the performing arts complex, one of the largest in the world, on January 27, 2014 and relinquished the presidency on April 14, 2016. His 2016 compensation was $1.1 million, including $252,000 in salary for three and a half months, $100,000 in bonus/incentive pay and $720,000 in severance, according to Lincoln Center’s 2016-17 tax return. The return was recently posted on its web site.
Bernstein left the nonprofit after it determined that he violated its policies by not disclosing a relationship with a staffer. “This was not about the current issues of harassment, this was something rather different,” he told Andrew Travers of the Aspen Times. “I wish it had ended differently. I’m proud of what I accomplished there.” Now overseeing his first season as producing director of Theatre Aspen, Bernstein didn’t return emails for this story.
While lucrative, the Lincoln Center top job is notoriously difficult, given the nonstop fundraising and responsibility for a 16-acre campus with 11 high-profile and occasionally quarrelsome arts and education organizations. They include the Metropolitan Opera, New York Philharmonic and Lincoln Center Theater. Bernstein’s predecessor, Reynold Levy, titled his memoir of his 12-year run They Told Me Not to Take That Job. In his last year there, Levy earned $2.4 million.
Management turmoil has been the rule of late. Lincoln Center had three chief financial officers in the three months after Bernstein left. His successor, Debora Spar, a former President of Barnard College, resigned after a year, saying the job wasn’t a good fit. Under Spar, it ended the 22-year Lincoln Center Festival and Lincoln Center and the Philharmonic abandoned a roughly $500 million gut renovation of Geffen Hall (formerly Avery Fisher Hall). Other programming continues, including American Songbook (which had a high-powered fundraiser this week), Lincoln Center Out of Doors and Mostly Mozart. The current acting president of Lincoln Center, Russell Granet, previously oversaw its education and consulting divisions.
The New York Times reported in April that Lincoln Center projected a deficit for the fiscal year ending in June. A spokeswoman, Mary Caraccioli, said Lincoln Center won’t disclose its current finances until the relevant tax filings are out in 2019.
Bernstein is a former leader of the Broadway League and the Commercial Theatre Institute, which is an educational joint venture of the League and the Theatre Development Fund. Prior to joining Lincoln Center, he helped revive Bucks County Playhouse, north of Philadelphia, after it closed for 18 months amid a financial crisis. His productions there included the premiere of Terrence McNally’s Mothers and Sons, starring Tyne Daly, which transferred to Broadway in 2014. Bernstein told the Aspen Times that Theatre Aspen could eventually become known for developing new work. This summer’s programming features the mainstays Ragtime, Godspell and Our Town.
Unlike its parent, Lincoln Center Theater has taken management continuity to an extreme. André Bishop has been artistic director since 1992 and the producing artistic director, alone at the top, since 2013. His salary increased 3 percent in 2016 to $731,000, with total compensation, including benefits, valued at $897,000. This season, LCT was nominated for 12 Tony Awards, including 10 for its revival of My Fair Lady.