Great collaborations inspire great performances.
And great contracts define and protect great collaborations.
When brash American impresario, P. T. Barnum, made an audacious business proposal to the high-minded “Swedish Nightingale,” opera singer Jenny Lind, a surprising and in many ways sensational partnership was born. The stakes were enormous when these two virtuosos, wildly different in terms of personality and motive, entered into their historic contract – a contract that would prove its worth many times over amid the dramatic developments that followed.
P.T. Barnum and Jenny Lind were giants in their respective fields long before they actually met. Renowned for donating large sums from her sold-out concerts to local charities, Lind had captivated European audiences with the purity of both her voice and her character. P.T. Barnum had earned a name – and a fortune – as a showman and promoter extraordinaire. Often accused of being a charlatan and a shameless huckster, Barnum was simultaneously reviled and admired for his extraordinary ability to ignite and fan the flames of public interest.
Barnum saw in Jenny Lind a colossal opportunity – and in his trademark fashion, he threw caution to the winds. Despite the fact that he had never heard her sing – and that very few Americans even knew who she was – Barnum sent an emissary to Europe to negotiate with Lind to perform an ambitious American concert tour. Lind was wary and reluctant, but she was finally persuaded by the potential to raise unprecedented amounts of money for her philanthropies.
Widely praised as a generous and virtuous woman, Jenny Lind was nobody’s fool. The terms she insisted on for their business arrangement would surely have discouraged a man less inclined to risk it all than P.T. Barnum. The ensuing contract, signed on January 9, 1850, guaranteed Lind the unheard of sum of $1000 each for up to 150 performances, as well as payment for all expenses, including those of her sizable retinue. The contract also famously stipulated that the entire amount be deposited with Lind’s London bankers in advance.
Spurned by Wall Street, where common wisdom held that this new venture would bankrupt him, Barnum had to sell or mortgage everything he had – and then borrow the final installment from a friend – to come up with the $187,000 payment. With so much riding on the success of the upcoming engagement, Barnum forged ahead with a blizzard of promotional hype the likes of which the world had never seen. By the time Lind arrived in New York on September 11, 1850, the entire country was in the grips of “Lindmania.” 30,000 people showed up to meet Lind’s ship at the dock, and 20,000 more lined city streets to catch a glimpse of the much-heralded “Swedish Nightingale.”
As conceived by Barnum, Lind’s concerts were extravagant, highly publicized affairs – and from the outset, the tour was a critical and financial triumph. As soon as it became clear that the big gamble would pay off, others wanted a part of it. Barnum turned down countless offers from suddenly eager investors. Of his own volition, he renegotiated with Lind to award her a higher percentage of what would obviously be huge profits. Months later, when Lind’s advisors went behind her back in an attempt to push Barnum to the sidelines, he referred them to a clause in the contract that would have required them to buy him out at significant expense. And when Lind eventually invoked her right to exit the partnership, some say to an exhausted Barnum’s relief, the two parted on amicable terms.
Jenny Lind made good on her promise to give the proceeds of her concerts to charities in the U.S. and Europe. And P.T. Barnum made good on his promise to help her (and himself, of course) raise a fortune from their shared enterprise. Protected by the strength of the contract that defined their business relationship, these two unlikely partners proved that great collaborations inspire great performances.
At Green Hasson Janks, we are honored to have collaborated with many inspiring lawyers and law firms over the past six decades in Los Angeles. We offer a full array of accounting, audit, tax and advisory services, as well as a global presence through our affiliation with HLB International. Green Hasson Janks. Great things happen when people collaborate.
Collaboration is the cornerstone of the Curie legacy. Working together in a damp, drafty, ill-equipped laboratory shed in Paris, their fingers scarred from exposure to dangerous radioactive materials, Marie and Pierre Curie founded a scientific dynasty.
Learn more about their amazing story.
Working together, there are no limits to what people can do. Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers ever to summit Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak.
Learn more about their amazing story.
Green Hasson Janks
10990 Wilshire Blvd 16th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90024
Assurance and Advisory
Copyright © 2012 Green Hasson & Janks LLP All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer | Privacy Statement
An independent member of HLB International, a worldwide network of accounting firms and business advisors.