Alan Gerry made a reported $795 million when he sold Cablevision to Time Warner for $2.8 billion in 1996.
Nowadays, Gerry, who remains Time Warner's fifth-largest voting stockholder, has more than the cable industry on his mind. He's thinking about Pete Townsend, Joan Osborne, Richie Havens, Don Henley, Stevie Nicks, Ziggy Marley, Donovan, Lou Reed and other music notables.
Gerry is the gardener behind "A Day in the Garden," an Aug. 14-16 concert featuring the aforementioned artists at the vibe-heavy site of the 1969 Woodstock festival in the Catskills town of Bethel, N.Y., about 80 miles northwest of New York City.
"This is a whole lot harder than the cable business in some ways," he told CBS.MarketWatch.com. "It's a whole different type of thing. ...We have an American icon up here. We had something that happened in 1969 that the whole world is still talking about."
The 69-year-old entrepreneur, who has been listed in Forbes and Fortune magazines as one of the wealthiest Americans, has formed a nonprofit called the Gerry Foundation to promote his philanthropic causes. GF Entertainment, a unit of the foundation, is promoting the concert.
"We grew up here," Gerry said, referring to his family. "After I merged Cablevision into Time Warner in 1996, we were looking around to help the economy up here."
Gerry said people from 38 states have bought tickets to the three-day event, which kicks off Friday. Sunday sales are approaching a 30,000-ticket sellout.
Gerry is sticking close to his roots. From his office in Liberty, N.Y., he's planning a project that he hopes will help revitalize Sullivan County, a major tourist destination during the heyday of the Catskill Mountain resorts in the1940s and '50s.
|Woodstock '94 concertgoers, covered with mud.|
Gerry envisions a performing-arts center and tourist destination not unlike the Tanglewood Music Center in Massachusetts or Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.
The concert is Gerry's first step toward that goal. He hopes to stage a series of smaller concerts at the site next year.
Since the 1969 concert, thousands have made pilgrimages to the site each year on the anniversary of the festival. In 1994, Sid Bernstein, the concert promoter who brought the Beatles to America in the 1960s, planned a concert to mark the 25th anniversary of the original Woodtock concert.
Although formal plans unraveled days before the event, 50,000 people showed up, and some of the booked acts performed anyway.
At the same time, the original promoters of the 1969 festival drew about 250,000 to a Pepsi-sponsored 25th-anniversary concert in Saugerties, N.Y.
Gerry holds 2.4 percent of the voting power in Time Warner, according to the company's 1998 annual report. His stake puts him fifth behind Ted Turner (10.3 percent), Capital Group (8.7 percent), Fidelity Investments (5.4 percent) and Houston Industries (3.8 percent).
He said he's talking to Time Warner and other media companies about investing in the long-range project. Time Warner already owns the recording and video rights to the original Woodstock.
Gerry hired Economic Research Associates of Los Angeles to provide an economic impact study of a performance center in the area. Landmark Entertainment of Los Angeles, which has worked on theme-park attractions with Universal Studios and Walt Disney, is working on the design for the proposed facility.
Gerry, an ex-Marine, said he wasn't exactly a hippie in the '60s. He pointed out that his kids "grew up during that era."
Written By Steve Gelsi, CBS MarketWatch