Ascend CEO Paul Bassman Finalizes Acquisition of Entertainment Insurance Firm

Cage the Elephant
Chris Tuite

Cage the Elephant perform at the BottleRock Napa Valley Music Festival at the Napa Valley Expo on May 29, 2015 in Napa, California.

Paul Bassman, president/CEO of Ascend Insurance Brokerage, has closed on the acquisition of the entertainment insurance firm, purchasing the business from its founder James Chippendale, who opened the Dallas-based company in 2001.

A former label exec at Capitol Records turned artist manager for such bands as Damageplan, Flickerstick and Drowning Pool, Bassman has become a leading player in the world of entertainment insurance and risk management services at the rapidly growing Ascend, which he joined eight years ago. Bassman had become disillusioned with the music business following the death of Drowning Pool front man Dave Williams in 2002, followed by the shooting death of Damageplan's "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott in 2004.

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But when looking for a career change, Bassman was not immediately drawn to the insurance field. "Coming from a management and A&R background, insurance sales sounded horrible," Bassman admits.  "Now, after eight years, I'm much more of a trusted advisor than a salesman to my clients, which I truly enjoy.  Nothing makes me happier than when I sign up a new client who expresses their happiness that they finally have an insurance broker who understands their business. I have the unique perspective from seeing the business from their point of view, having been a part of their business."

With staff "all over the country," Ascend currently has 18 full time employees and several more part-timers. Clients include some of the top entertainment industry companies in North America, including entertainers, festivals, promoters, clubs, ballrooms, theaters, amphitheaters, and other venues of every size, along with concert service and production companies. Notable clients include promoter/producer Dave Shapiro (Lok'n Fest, Brooklyn Bowl), CID Entertainment, Bowery Presents, Riot Fest in Denver and Chicago, BottleRock in Napa, Calif., Pitchfork music fests, Pemberton music fest, the Metro in Chicago, Stubbs in Austin, and Bomb Factory in Dallas. 

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Recent tragedies at live music events, be they weather or violence-related, has drawn attention to the need for specialized entertainment insurance coverage. "The most important thing you can do is to recognize what assets your company has, try and identity what could possibly cause damage to those assets, and make sure they are protected," advises Bassman. "If you are a manager, your assets are your clients. You protect yourself with a solid management contract drafted by a lawyer who protects your interests. Beyond that, if the artist is established enough, you should get a 'key man' life and disability policy in case something happens.  As a manager, you devote yourself 24/7 to your clients, and it can be gone in an instant -- believe me, I know."

For festival owners and producers, "the name of the festival is a huge asset," Bassman advises. "Again, get a lawyer involved, and make sure you own the rights to the name. Creating a separate LLC that owns the name and licenses the use of the name to the producers is a good 'belt and suspenders' way of protecting that valuable asset."

Meanwhile, Chippendale, who founded the firm 15 years ago, is moving on to a life outside of the entertainment industry. "As I transition into a life post-Ascend, I am very proud of the work we have done to make the company one of the top entertainment insurance brokers in North America," says Chippendale. "Ascend will continue to thrive under the direction of the new owner Paul Bassman, and the amazingly talented, committed staff we have assembled."

The executive staff of Ascend Insurance Brokerage prior to the acquisition remains in place as the company's key management.


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