Financially Struggling Players Club Appoints New Leaders

By Heather Holland on March 18, 2014 5:19pm 

 The Players club appointed Arthur Makar as president and CEO last week to lead the club's recovery.
The Players club appointed Arthur Makar as president and CEO last week to lead the club's recovery.
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GRAMERCY — The Players club has installed new leaders in an urgent effort to save the cash-strapped organization.

The club's new president, chairman and officers, appointed at a March 11 meeting, will be tasked with boosting membership and increasing revenue and programming, according to a statement released by the club Tuesday.

“I am committing the new leadership team to the highest standard of integrity and accountability, transparency, collegiality and creativity in updating programs and services and building a strong future for the club we love,” said Arthur Makar, the club’s new president and CEO, in a statement.

“Even with our incredibly rich history to date, our best days lie ahead,” he continued.

Makar — who currently works as executive director of Fight for Sight, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting eye research, and sits on the board of the historic Cherry Lane Theatre — will direct the club's finances.

Also appointed was James L. Larocca, an attorney and playwright who will serve as the club's chairman. Larocca — who retired from his position as commissioner of the New York State Public Service Commission last summer — will direct the club's programming.

The club ousted its former executive director, John Martello, in spring 2013 and hadn't replaced him until now.

As of last year, The Players club was roughly $4 million in debt, and the club had even tried loaning out its John Singer Sergeant painting to keep operations afloat.

Last year, the club also reported owing more than $250,000 in back property taxes and couldn't afford to repair the crumbling facade of the club’s 125-year-old mansion home at 16 Gramercy Park South.

"We're surviving, but we're living hand to mouth right now," Makar said. "We want to get beyond hand to mouth. We can do that by being a little better at budgeting and planning so we're not undergoing financial chaos all the time."

The club also hired Michael Smith as a general manager to focus on the club's overall operations and appointed media executive Michael Barra as secretary. Actress and writer Nichole Donje and healthcare executive Justin Frazer will serve as vice presidents of the board.

All board officers are volunteer positions, Barra said.

"They're a fresh group...that hasn't been involved in the active management of the club before," said Barra.

The Players club was founded in 1888 to serve as a social and professional gathering place for people involved in theater and performance arts, and it continues to do so today.

As president of the club, Makar hopes to restore financial stability by auditing the club's finances and offering better food and programming for its current members.

"My first goal is financial transparency," said Makar, who plans to have a complete audit ready this summer. 

Makar also wants to draw more members and keep existing members happy, by improving the dinner and bar service already offered Monday through Friday and adding lunch service.

"We need to take better care of our old members," said Makar, who lives in Kew Gardens. "If we want people to come in and dine with us, it really can't be a chore."

The club also plans to make much-needed repairs to the mansion's facade, using $900,000 that was recently raised. Work has been going on for a few months and the scaffolding, which has stood in front of the building for years, will finally be coming down in the next week or so, Makar said.

“We should install a new historic marker in front of our clubhouse on Gramercy Park with the words: ‘on this date in 2014, The Players was renewed and reborn,'" Larocca said, "as we work to strengthen our financial health, rebuild our base with a new generation of members and restore the vitality and richness that has served us for a century and quarter."

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