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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Chase

Murphy is Out, Says Shea's board

What flipped the switch?

The statement is vague but seems to suggest that this was not a resignation. There is no explanation for the man's departure; no perfunctory declaration of good wishes for his future.

Shea’s Performing Arts Center Board of Trustees today announced that Michael G. Murphy is no longer its president. The embattled administrator, known for his warm and charming public persona, had become better known in recent months, for reportedly fostering a toxic work environment behind the scenes.

After Murphy abruptly went on "leave," effective July 17th, without explanation, a saga of Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Murphy quickly began to emerge, complete with tales of a demeaning and abusive leadership style, and volatile temper.

Then, on Friday, August 12th 25 members of the 34 Shea's person staff signed and published a letter of protest. Instead of removing Murphy, the board gave him what they called "an expanded role." This amounted to diminishing his duties, and expanding the responsibilities of Robert Brunschmid, Shea's director of operations.

Before long five members of the board of trustees had jumped ship, members of the staff resigned, and Bill Patti, the highly regarded general manager, had been fired.

The statement released by Shea's is as follows:

Leadership Change at Shea’s

Buffalo, NY, Oct. 21, 2022 – Shea’s Performing Arts Center Board of Trustees today announced that Michael G. Murphy is no longer its president.

Murphy led Western New York’s premier musical theater venue for six years.

The board will form a committee to open a national search for Murphy’s successor. The board also plans to announce the addition of several new trustees following its annual meeting Oct. 29.

The Shea’s season is now underway, blossoming after the pandemic limited recent attendance opportunities. It includes Broadway shows such as, The Prom, Tina, Disney’s Aladdin, Come From Away, and Hadestown, among many others. Shea’s recently announced that singer John Mellencamp and comedian Jerry Seinfeld would headline shows next year.

“We are pleased with the return of our patrons and fans of Broadway musicals and other shows,” Board Chair Randall K. Best said. “And we want to thank those patrons and our sponsors for their loyalty and patience during this challenging time of transition.”

After weeks of silence, the announcement of Murphy's unceremonious departure invites many questions. After continuous and unflagging support from a board that blamed "a few bad apples" in the Shea's staff for all the tumult, why now? Did a new review by an HR consultant reveal more compelling reasons for Murphy to go? Did he piss someone off? Did he just become too much of a liability? Maybe we'll find out in the fullness of time.


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