Gaylord Keeps Grand Ole Opry / Changes Name to Ryman Hospitality

September 25, 2012 - By Trigger  //  News  //  18 Comments

Tuesday morning (9-25-12), Gaylord Entertainment shareholders approved a $210 million dollar deal to have Marriott International buy the company and take over management of certain Gaylord assets. The vote also sets in motion Gaylord’s plan to covert the company into an REIT, or Real Estate Investment Trust. Shareholders voted at an 85 percent rate in favor of the deal according to The Tennessean.

As part of the SEC filing, Gaylord also revealed plans to change the name of the company to Ryman Hospitality Properties, the “Ryman” being from The Ryman Auditorium; the “Country Music Mother Church” and the first major home of the Grand Ole Opry. The name change also solidifies the company’s hold on The Grand Ole Opry and it’s assets, which includes The Ryman and radio station WSM-AM. According to The Nashville Post, then name change is part of the company’s “plans to have the Ryman brand, along with the Grand Ole Opry and WSM-AM, play a prominent role in their future operations.”

Whether The Grand Ole Opry assets would be part of the deal was called into question when large Gaylord investor Gabelli Funds LLC suggested Gaylord spin off the Opry assets, believing they would thrive better outside of Gaylord’s new structure that will be focused on real estate instead of entertainment, but Gabelli did not hold enough stock to thwart the deal. Gabelli’s Gaylord holdings are near 15%, but it is unclear if he comprised the 15% that opposed the deal. A call to Gabelli by Saving Country Music was not immediately returned. The largest Gaylord stockholder, TRT holdings, also opposed the deal before being bought out by Gaylord to allow the deal to go through.

“Nothing will change at these iconic assets,” said Gaylord CEO Collin Reed last week. “And we look forward to continuing to offer the same level of world-class entertainment that has made them such prominent music institutions.”

Though Marriott International is the new umbrella organization Ryman Hospitality will reside under, Ryman Hospitality will continue to own its assets and manage its resort hotels and the Grand Ole Opry. Marriott will take over management of other Gaylord assets, including Nashville’s General Jackson Showboat and Wildhorse Saloon.

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The sale and ownership change at The Grand Ole Opry represented a unique opportunity for the institution to break free of from corporate control for the first time since 1982, and refocus its assets on the business of music. With the name change, Gaylord’s mark on the Grand Ole Opry now becomes indelible, and the possibility of Opry autonomy unlikely.

18 Comments to “Gaylord Keeps Grand Ole Opry / Changes Name to Ryman Hospitality”

  • Your title scared me for a second – I read it that Gaylord was changing the name of the Grand Ole Opry to Ryman Hospitality.

    • Sorry, I can see how folks could glean that from the title. Just changed it.

  • Not suprising in the least. I’m afraid it is what it is. The fans still have every right to push for changes they would like to see at the Opry. To what avail, who knows.

    • More homogenization and watering down of America’s institutions.. first the Sears Tower, then every historic sports stadium is named after some aftershave/toothpaste and now this.. Goodbye America.

      • Not all sports stadiums.
        Yankee Stadium (new)- didn’t change the name for greed. Sure they have a ton of sponsors, and ads all over the stadium, but they didn’t sell the stadium. For all that blast the Yanks for being to wealthy, they earn it, they don’t sellout the brand.

        Fenway Park- still and always will be Fenway Park.

        Wrigley Field- Although a horrid team and organization, the park still is Wrigley, unfortunately the Cubs are still the Cubs.

        Cowboys Stadium- Love or hate Jerry Jones, he didn’t sellout the stadium name.

        Oriole Park at Camden Yards- Not a corp. name.

        Rangers Park at Arlington- Not a corp. name.

        Kaufmann Stadium- KC Royals.

        Nationals Park- Washington Nationals

        Lambeau Field – Home of the Packers, not the sellouts.

        Just some examples. I fear that we jump to conclusions and blanket statement things to quickly because there is big money involved. Big money doesn’t always mean “sellout”.
        With the Opry, they are just doing what the mass audience wants, and it is stil The Grand Ole Opry. Not the Marriot or The Gaylord. If no one came to see the pop-country trash they roll out, they wouldn’t roll it out. It always, always goes back to the fans and what they will pay for.

  • Trig, couldn’t help but notice this article uncharacteristically consists of absolutely nothing but fact and lacks your opinion on the matter completely. Giving yourself time to cool down, or is that better suited for an entirely different posting?

    • It’s refreshing, isn’t it?

    • Probably both Pat. Frankly, I am embarrassed at the lack of interest or caring in what might turn out to be one of the most important issues in country music in 2012, and certainly one of the most important stories from the perspective of trying to “save country music.” I feel like I’m the last man on the mountain. From artists to fans, this story has been met with mostly disinterest and apathy, and quite honestly it is discouraging and alarming. This morning, Gaylord (or Ryman Hospitality) and Collin Reed have a grin from ear to ear because they outlasted their detractors. It may be another 30 years before the people get an opportunity to win their institution back. People want to say, and want their friends to think they care about country music, but there’s no more stomach for the fight. People aren’t angry anymore, they’re resigned, as big money consolidates their power on country music.

      I know there are some folks out there that do still care and that were paying attention to this issue and others, but the enthusiasm for fighting for country music seems to be gone. And that is what is even more discouraging than the fact that we missed a massive opportunity to get autonomy, or at least new ownership for country music’s most important institution.

      • Kyle, what exactly were passionate traditional country fans supposed to “fight” for the Opry’s autonomy with anyway, nerf bats? The Opry, WSM, and The Ryman are valuable assets and the only way they will be freed from the clutches of Marriott/Gaylord REIT is if some other entity offers enough cash to purchase them outright. What is needed is a Donald Trump type bucks up guy or gal (are you listening Taylor?) with a passion for saving and maintaining the traditions of country music who can afford to actually do something about it! Imagine if some richy-rich 1 per-center died and left a billion dollars to the CMHOF so that they could acquire those assets and run them as a trust overseen by country music’s true believers. For starters I would appoint Eddie Stubbs and Marty Stuart to the Board of Directors for such a trust entity. It’s nice to dream of such things but reality is based in cold hard financial numbers and all of the good intentions in the world won’t change that one bit.

        • We could start with somebody, anybody except for me and Mario Gabelli recognizing what a ridiculous situation it is that a real estate company specializing in hotels owns a radio station and a 100-year-old stage show. Hell, I haven’t barely even found any curiosity in this story, let along any concern. Remember all the fervor around Stonewall Jackson and Reinstate Hank in their heydays? Grass roots action and public discord can have great effects on things like this, at least marking down for history that there was opposition. I think one of the reasons the Country Music Hall of Fame has come into better sentiments these days than in the past is because people voiced their concerns. And they should continue to. If you don’t like the direction of the Opry, say so, speak up. It may not make a big difference, but I can guarantee it won’t make any difference if you say nothing and sit on Facebook playing Farmville. Hell, I got shit for bringing this story up.

          In relative terms, I do not think that it would take a lot of money to buy the Opry assets, certainly not Donald Trump money. Gaylord sold their entire company for $210 million. But Gaylord or “Ryman Hospitality” will NEVER give it up now on sheer principle. Maybe in another 30 years. And the Reinstate Hankers and the hardcore country fans will continue bitching without even acknowledging that the best opportunity to make real fundamental change at the Opry was just passed up while they sat on their hands.

          Like I said, what’s even more alarming than the Opry being stuck in a real estate corporate structure is that very few people seem to even to care. I know there was only a slim chance, but now there’s none.

          • Trigger, you cease to amaze me! That is some pretty powerful wording my friend and you are exactly right. I can’t even post an opinion after that one…

  • Trig, maybe it’s just that folks that love genuine roots music are so invested in the “scenes” that are happening in their area’s that they spend their efforts and their dollars to bolster the act’s and venue’s they are fans of. I love and respect the Opry’s historical signifigance and i’m thrilled when somebody like Dale Watson get’s and occasional Opry slot. However, as long as the pop country stuff sells and puts butts in seats at the Opry we will continue to see that. I’m just glad they throw the occasional bone to some deserving artists and legends.

    • You make some good points here, the first being that the Opry does showcase older, more traditional talent upon occasion, a lot more than many of its detractors give them credit for, like Dale Watson, like Loretta Lynn’s 50th Anniversary yesterday, like Don Maddox who talked extensively about how he loved getting a standing ovation at the Opry in my recent interview. Part of the reason that change has not come to the Opry is because some of its opponents aren’t willing to give credit where credit is do and be pragmatic.

      As for the “scenes,” the problem with scenes is they get bogged down in scene points and scene cred and everybody trying to be cool, and then perspectives get myopic and creativity dries up. Back in the mid 2000’s, it was Dale Watson, Wayne Hancock, and Hank III leading a big national movement to raise awareness about what was happening in country music. Now we have Shooter Jennings shooting videos with Bucky Covington. There’s no leadership, no national fervor. If this story, this scenario with the Opry had transpired in the mid-late 2000’s, it would have been a huge story. There would have been petitions circulating and people in the streets protesting in front of Gaylord’s corporate headquarters. All of that is gone now. Yes, everything stars local and that is a good healthy thing, but the movement has been overtaken by the scene. But I soldier on.

      • I think that this lack of interest in the Grand Ole Opry by underground country fans, as well as their general “myopia” as you put it, is a natural consequence of the monogenre vs microgenre theory that you originally posited. As mainstream country music is forming a monogenre with rock, pop, and increasingly rap, fans of pure country are increasingly focusing their attention on microgenres, i.e. “scenes”. At the same time, they see all mainstream music institutions as serving as centers of the monogenre enemy, and they are shunning anything they see as being associated with mainstream country music, including historic institutions like the Grand Ole Opry.

        The monogenre vs microgenre polarization has reached such an extreme that some country music microgenre fans even see such a traditionalist institution as the Country Music Hall of Fame as part of the monogenre foe, as evidenced by the XXX image last year showing a tank pointing at the CMHOF. I see that you have a newsfeed headline about how CMHOF attendance has increased this year. I would be interested in knowing what percent of the new attendees are underground country fans. I would guess that it is a very small number. The number of new people that the CMHOF attracted with the Taylor Swift exhibit probably vastly outnumbers the new underground country fans that it attracted this year.

        In short, the underground (microgenre) vs mainstream (monogenre) polarization in music has gone beyond the point of no return. Unfortunately, this is harmful to the prospects of advancement for underground bands and singers. If the major labels calculate that a large percent of the original underground fan base will desert a band if it succeeds in the mainstream due to the fans’ myopic belief that it has “sold out” by joining the mainstream “monogenre”, then the labels will be much less likely to sign the band on. In this manner, the underground’s alienation from the mainstream music world becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  • Eric makes some good points which I observed first hand at a festival back in april that was put on by a local radio station that plays exclusively Texas/Red Dirt Americana artists. There was a guy walking around all day wearing a “F Pat Green” shirt. Pat was not on the Bill. The headliner was RWH. I realize Pat is now back out of the mainstream world and back in the Texas/Red dirt world again but to this guy he sold out and is to be hated. I thinks for better or worse that spills over into lots of other area’s.

  • I’m confused?

    Was this decision on who owns the Opry up for a vote and we just didn’t get out and vote? If so, then we should be upset we did nothing.
    However, if that wasn’t the case, the only option here was that someone with mega bucks roll in and buy it. An individual, a group or a corporation with big bucks. Trigger, simply saying no one did anything is rediculous. What were you doing about this before the last two weeks where you put up two blogs about it? Were you organizing an investment group to buy it and put it on the right track? No, you blogged about it and how “others” should do something. Then you blog that you were the only one trying to do something.

    The Opry has always been owned by a larger company. Maybe not a hotel/real estate company, but it was always owned and the shots were called by executives. The changes have simply followed the trends.

    You bring up all the barking that some artists did a while back. You bring up the Reinstate Hank movement, but last I checked, pop country succeeded and Hank is still not in the Opry. That doesn’t mean people shouldn’t fight for what they believe in simply because the fight is against to big an opponent, but the masses or the “fans” drive the trends and corporations try to cash in on them.

    Don’t try and pretend that ole’ Hank and the Orpy in the 1950’s, that those folks weren’t as interested in a dollar as we are today. We just happen to like their music so we think they were doing it out of the goodness of their heart. Not always.

    And another 30 years before the Opry can change hands? Get a group of investors together and offer Ryman Hospitality $500M for it all. See if you have to wait 30 years.

    I think this blog, or at least your responses to the responses, show just how much you don’t know about the business of music. Your a passionate fan, but professional music is a business. Lots of people, LOTS depend on the right business decisions. Simply buying up the Opry and bringing in acts of true/real traditional country might make you smile, but what happens when your investors and your staff aren’t seeing what they need to see and they you have to make a decision. Dale Watson cause you love him, or Carrie Underwood to keep the place open, and the history alive?

    • “What were you doing about this before the last two weeks where you put up two blogs about it?”

      Actually I’ve posted 6 blogs about over the last five months, the first on April 30th, before there were even rumors of a Gaylord sale, and that also includes a detailed, broken-down explanation of why The Grand Ole Opry is an ill fit for Gaylord’s corporate structure from a very business-oriented perspective.

      But you’re right, I am just a writer and a fan, and those are all the resources that I have. I don’t have a lot of business contacts to attempt to put together a group of investors, and my contribution to this effort probably was meager and pathetic. But I care, and I try, and I firmly believe that if more people cared and tried and attempted to do things with the resources at their disposal, more positive things could happen.

      Again, I’m not shaking my fists at the fact that The Opry was sold as much as the apathy that surrounded it. And please, read those comments because I think I expressly stated that pragmatism is needed, not just hardline “Let’s put Dale in the Opry” sentiments. From above:

      “You make some good points here, the first being that the Opry does showcase older, more traditional talent upon occasion, a lot more than many of its detractors give them credit for, like Dale Watson, like Loretta Lynn’s 50th Anniversary yesterday, like Don Maddox who talked extensively about how he loved getting a standing ovation at the Opry in my recent interview. Part of the reason that change has not come to the Opry is because some of its opponents aren’t willing to give credit where credit is do and be pragmatic.”

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