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Hawaii Wonder Blunder

01:01 PM Friday 7/20/12 | |

Update: A bogus Stevie Wonder concert has caused some embarrassing repercussions at the University of Hawaii.

  • Stevie Wonder

    East Room @ The White House, Washington, D.C.
    May 9, 2012

    (AP Photo)


The Oahu university was expected to host Wonder at its Stan Sheriff Center Aug. 18, and it put down a $200,000 deposit. Thing is, Wonder hadn’t been informed of the gig and the money is now missing.

The university launched an internal investigation to figure out what went wrong, according to the island’s Star Advertiser, and soon reported the university had hired local law firm Cades Schutte, which was hired by the school for past concerns.

The GM of the venue, Rich Sheriff, has been put on indefinite paid administrative leave, university officials announced. The concert was to benefit UH Athletics and the event was announced at a press conference by athletic director Jim Donovan. He, too, has been put on leave.

Donovan and Sheriff were escorted to their buildings and allowed to pack one box of belongings before turning in their keys, a source told Hawaii News Now. Donovan approved the concert deal without the knowledge of UH President MRC Greenwood and Sheriff was the campus contact with veteran Hawaii promoter Bob Peyton of BPE Productions, according to the paper.

UH-Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple said the school has contacted the FBI about the missing money.

Donovan said July 10 the benefit was canceled after school officials lost track of the deposit, which was given to an athletic fund to book the show. He added UH was trying to recover the money and said he “couldn’t speculate” if the university had been scammed.

Associate AD Carl Clapp signed the contract with Peyton on behalf of Donovan, a source told the News, and university attorneys approved the language. A source added that the school’s CFO authorized a wire transfer of $200,000 to a Miami company called Epic Talent, which by all accounts holds only a “virtual office” in a Miami high-rise where it receives mail and does not have physical space there, according to the Star Advertiser. The website displayed images of Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Jay-Z and Taylor Swift.

The company, managed by Sean Barriero, appeared to be in business for about 150 days, according to Corporationwiki.com.

Wonder has been repped exclusively by CAA worldwide for decades.

Peyton had no comment to Pollstar but apparently told the News that he, too, wired $50,000 of his own money to Epic. He also told KHON-TV he sent the money to Wonder’s international agent in Spain and that Hawaii is often considered an international territory.

“I relied on Helen Williams because my agents in England, who I have booked shows with for 20 years, have worked with her and they turned me on to her,” Peyton told the Advertiser. “I felt real comfortable because the people that I trust, trust her.”

He said that CAA once quoted him at $750,000.

“So when Stevie Wonder was offered to me for a benefit for less money, it was my obligation to explore it,” and Williams, at Elite Agency, quoted $730,000.

Although the university had already sold 6,000 tickets on an 11,000-cap concert, it received news July 10 from CAA that Wonder wasn’t available on the date.

“The event was booked by an unauthorized third party without the knowledge or consent of Mr. Wonder’s representative,” Donovan said.

The contract, according to a letter released by Peyton, has the boilerplate clause that the deposit is refundable only if cancellation is the fault of the artist. However, UH canceled at this point, Peyton told the News, and said he told officials he never agreed to the cancellation.

“I have been doing concerts in Hawaii for over 40 years and my reputation is dear to me,” he told the paper, adding that he would work to get the show back on track for its worthy cause.

Officials said ticket buyers who paid with credit would get refunded within seven days.

UH Vice President Rockne Freitas, a former assistant AD, has been named acting athletic director, the Star Advertiser reported.