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Woodstock 50 festival in disarray after investor pulls out

FILE PHOTO: Singer John Fogerty speaks during the announcement event for the lineup for the Woodstock 50th Anniversary concert in New York, U.S., March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A planned three-day concert marking the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock music festival was thrown into doubt on Monday after the lead investors said they had canceled the event but organizers said they had no right to do so.

Woodstock 50 was due to take place Aug. 16-18 at the Watkins Glen motor racing venue in upstate New York with a lineup that included rapper Jay-Z, singer Miley Cyrus and rockers the Killers.

It was promoted as a modern version of the August 1969 Woodstock festival, which was billed as "three days of peace and music" and is regarded as one of the pivotal moments in music history.

Investors Dentsu Aegis Network, a unit of Japanese company Dentsu Inc, said in a statement on Monday they "don’t believe the production of the festival can be executed as an event worthy of the Woodstock Brand name while also ensuring the health and safety of the artists, partners and attendees."

"Dentsu Aegis Network’s Amplifi Live, a partner of Woodstock 50, has decided to cancel the festival," the statement added.

Dentsu had a clause in its contract that gave it the option to cancel the festival, a representative of the investors said.

The producers of Woodstock 50 said that was not the case.

"Woodstock 50 vehemently denies the festival's cancellation and legal remedy will (be) sought," Woodstock 50 said in a statement to the Poughkeepsie Journal in upstate New York.

“They do not have the right to unilaterally cancel the festival,” Michael Lang, the co-producer of the 1969 Woodstock festival and the man behind Woodstock 50, told the New York Times on Monday.

More than 80 musical acts, including 1969 festival veterans John Fogerty, Canned Heat and Santana, had been announced as taking part and some 100,000 fans were expected to attend and camp at the Watkins Glen site.

But the festival ran into trouble two weeks ago when the sale date for tickets was postponed. Ticket prices had not been announced.

The festival met delays in obtaining permits, arranging security, water supplies and sanitation, said a source close to the event. Capacity was reduced to around 75,000, cutting into the financial feasibility of the festival, the source added.

The nonprofit Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, the current owners of the field where the 1969 Woodstock festival took place, has also scaled back plans for a three-day anniversary event saying in February it will instead host separate concerts by Ringo Starr, Santana and the Doobie Brothers.

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant and Lisa Richwine; editing by Bill Berkrot and Chris Reese)