By JOHN T. WARD
Numa Saisselin, a former stagehand who led the Count Basie Theatre back to fiscal health after decades of mismanagement and physical decay, only to be nudged out of his job last month, is leaving the Red Bank venue, he announced Tuesday.
Saisselin will become president of the Florida Theatre, a 1,900-seat circa 1927 stage in Jacksonville, Florida, he told friends in an email.
With what he called “very mixed emotions,” Saisselin wrote that “although the opportunity to work in a bigger venue in a bigger market was irresistible, it will still be hard to leave the Basie after 10-1/2 years of great work with so many of you.”
Saisselin said that he plans to continue working at the Basie for the next six weeks. Meantine, he added, “Justine Robertson is the Basie’s new CEO and I hope that I get the chance to introduce you to her.”
Robertson, of Rumson, was hired as interim CEO to head the newly merged boards and operations of the nonprofit theater and its six-year-old fundraising arm. Saisselin had been the theater’s CEO, and become chief operating officer in the reshuffling.
Saisselin, 49, declined comment on the circumstances that led to Robertson being brought in. But he called his time at the Basie “a great experience, completely fulfulling,” and added that while he hadn’t expected to be going to Florida, he also hadn’t envisioned coming to New Jersey a decade ago from his last job, managing a stage for the City University of New York.
“Sometimes change is good,” he said.
Saisselin presided over the transformation of the Basie – opened in 1926 as the Carlton Theatre – from a leaky-roofed money-loser to financially stable entertainment anchor in a town lauded by Smithsonian magazine this year as the third-best small town in America for cultural offerings. Among the names who graced the stage during his tenure were Bruce Springsteen, Brian Wilson and, last month, Crosby, Stills & Nash.
An economic assessment last year found that the theater was a driver of employment to the tune of some 300 full-time-equivalent jobs in bars, restaurants and elsewhere, generating $12.75 million in spending annually.