Minnesota Orchestra CEO Michael Henson to Step Down

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The Minnesota Orchestra said on Thursday that its president and CEO Michael Henson will resign this August, ending a seven-year tenure that saw both record fundraising and severe labor turmoil, culminating in a 16-month musician lockout.

In a statement, board chair Gordon Sprenger said that Henson was stepping down by mutual agreement. Sprenger called Henson "an agent of change" and said he leaves the orchestra on "solid financial footing."

Henson, who spearheaded a $110 million capital campaign and a $50 million renovation of Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, also became a lightning rod for criticism by those who accused him of pushing for drastic pay cuts of 35 percent from the musicians.

“It has always been my aim to do what is right for the organization, however great the challenges, and I’m proud of our accomplishments,” Henson said in the statement. “The right thing now is for me to work to ensure continuity during this transition to the next phase in the life of the Minnesota Orchestra, which I believe will be very bright.”   

Musicians issued a vote of no confidence in Henson in November 2012, calling for his ouster. At the time, Jon Campbell, the board chair, dismissed the vote as a "publicity tactic." Management had locked the musicians out on Oct. 1, 2012, and all concerts were canceled in a dispute over major pay cuts proposed to help counter operating deficits.

After the dispute was settled in January, Henson agreed to take a 15 percent pay cut. He is now expected to stay on through a transition period while a successor is chosen.

With Henson leaving, there is some speculation that Osmo Vänskä may return as music director. The Finnish conductor resigned in October, at the height of the lockout, but he has indicated that he might return if Henson leaves. Vanska is scheduled to guest conduct the orchestra on March 27-29.