The Day on the Green Files: Led Zeppelin worked for a Russian ballerina and Dutch radio hosts

On October 11, 1976, the members of Led Zeppelin as well as their manager Peter Grant signed contracts to become salaried employees of an obscure Dutch company set up just five days earlier.

The business was run by an eccentric collection of people including a famous Russian ballerina who would later become Steve Martin’s mother in law and a Dutch jazz pianist, LedZepNews can reveal.

For more than 40 years, the identities of the people who helped run S&L Entertainment Enterprises was a closely guarded secret. The Dutch business formed part of an elaborate global structure used by Led Zeppelin as well as Bad Company and Laurence Olivier to minimise how much tax they paid, particularly in the US.

The company was prominently mentioned in Led Zeppelin tour adverts and on concert tickets beginning in 1977. By signing up the band members and their manager as employees of a Dutch business without any footprint in the US, Led Zeppelin managed to funnel chunks of its income out of the US to avoid paying taxes on it.

LedZepNews previously investigated S&L in this article, revealing how the Rotterdam business was owned by a company on the Caribbean island of Curaçao that was in turn owned by a foundation in Geneva which the US government revealed was set up by a mysterious Swiss citizen known only as “H”.

But legal filings resulting from the backstage violence that erupted at the Day on the Green festival in California on July 23, 1977 forced the directors of S&L to step out of the shadows, revealing a bizarre collection of show business personalities.

The three men assaulted at the festival filed a $2 million lawsuit on July 25, 1977 against S&L, claiming the company was doing business as Led Zeppelin. Essentially, they argued the band and the Dutch business were one and the same thing.

Legal filings from 1978 obtained by LedZepNews as part of The Day on the Green Files include a list of directors of S&L, revealing for the first time the names of the people who helped run the tax structure.

It’s unlikely that most of these directors had any operational role in running the businesses or controlling Led Zeppelin. But on paper at least, the directors of S&L ran a business that the members of the band all worked for.

Here’s the full list of directors of S&L revealed in the filing:

  • Ian Ffrench, CEO – a lawyer and accountant in Geneva
  • J. A. Steinz
  • Pim Jacobs – a Dutch jazz pianist and TV presenter
  • Willem Duys – a Dutch radio presenter
  • Irina Baranova – A Russian ballerina
  • Fritz Rau – a German music promoter
  • Edward Jarret
  • Tjomme d’Oliveira (resigned) – a Dutch lawyer

Led Zeppelin and the Russian ballerina

The most recognisable name on the list of directors of S&L is Irina Baranova, a famous Russian ballet dancer. Born in Saint Petersburg in 1919, Baranova and her family escaped the Russian revolution by disguising themselves as peasants and travelling to Romania.

Baranova eventually moved to Paris and was taught by Olga Preobrajenska, another Russian ballerina. She was hired by choreographer George Balanchine and became part of the trio of so-called “Baby Ballerinas”.

The seemingly random connection between this ballerina and Led Zeppelin’s tax shelter becomes apparent when examining the name Baranova went by in the 1978 document: Irina Baranova-Tennant.

In 1949, Baranova married the English theatrical agent Cecil Tennant who managed stars including Olivier, another employee of S&L alongside Led Zeppelin. Olivier even gave evidence on behalf of the company in 1980 as it battled US tax authorities.

Baranova was also the mother in law of US entertainer Steve Martin after he married Baranova and Tennant’s daughter Victoria Tennant.

The Dutch TV presenters

Other well-known names on the list of directors include Pim Jacobs and Willem Duys. Jacobs was a Dutch jazz pianist and composer who was also a presenter on Dutch television.

Duys was a Dutch television and radio presenter who took up presenting after a tennis career. He hosted “Voor de Vuist Weg”, considered the first talk show on Dutch television and also commented on the Eurovision Song Contest for its Dutch broadcasts.

Another director was Fritz Rau, a German music promoter who specialised in jazz, blues and rock music.

Dutch lawyer Tjomme d’Oliveira signed the 1976 employment contracts for both Bonham and Grant on behalf of S&L but by May 1978 he had resigned from the business.

LedZepNews has been unable to learn further information about the directors J. A. Steinz and Edward Jarret. It’s possible that their names are slightly misspelt in the document produced by S&L. Jacobs’ first name is misspelt as “Pym”, for example, and D’Oliveira’s name was misspelt “D’Oliviera”.

Ian Ffrench

The most powerful individual at S&L was its chief executive, Ian James Ffrench. It was Ffrench who responded to the question from the lawyers for the security guards and who provided the list of S&L’s directors.

Ffrench was a lawyer in Geneva who was one of the oldest clients of Mossack Fonseca, according to the 2017 book “Secrecy World: Inside the Panama Papers Investigation of Illicit Money Networks and the Global Elite” by investigative journalist Jake Bernstein.

Mossack Fonseca was a Panamanian law firm that specialised in running offshore companies before it shut down in 2018 following the Panama Papers leak of documents in 2016 that revealed details of its operations dating back decades.

Panamanian company records made public in the Panama Papers leak and published online by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists show that Frrench was connected to 47 different businesses in Panama between 1976 and 1990.

In his book, Bernstein identifies Ffrench as running Jura Nominees, a company in the British Virgin Islands that bought and sold property in Wyoming from Dick Cheney and his wife during the mid 1990s before Cheney became Vice President.

UK Companies House records show that Ffrench was also a director at the business Yachting Park alongside Trevor Baines and his wife Wendy Nicolau de Almeida Baines. Trevor Baines was sentenced to six years in prison in 2009 after he was convicted of money laundering over an alleged £111 million pump and dump securities scheme, the AremisSoft fraud.

The Day on the Green files show that S&L was incorporated on October 6, 1976. Five days later on October 11, 1976, Bonham and Grant signed their employment contracts with the business.

At the time the members of Led Zeppelin and their manager signed their employment contracts with S&L, the business was headquartered at Voorweg 11, next to a canal in the Dutch city of Spijkenisse. The property is next to Hartelpark, a popular walking route known for its Highland cows.

The current site of Voorweg 11 in Spijkenisse in The Netherlands, the first known address for S&L (Google Maps)

The band’s 15-year employment contracts with S&L, two of which were entered into evidence in the 1977 lawsuit, show they received 125,000 Dutch Guilders per year.

A source close to the business has revealed to LedZepNews the meaning of the company name. S&L stood for snakes and ladders, the board game where players roll dice hoping to ascend ladders and avoid snakes that set them back. This was an apt metaphor for the band’s attempt to navigate the complex world of international tax structures.

By 1978 when Ffrench provided information in response to the lawsuit, he listed the company’s address as Mathenesserlaan 239 in the Dutch city of Rotterdam, a three-storey building in the city centre.

Mathenesserlaan 239 in Rotterdam (Google Maps)

The Day on the Green files shed further light on S&L, revealing some of the people who operated the company that Led Zeppelin made a crucial part of its global operations from 1976 onwards. Crucially, the documents don’t seem to bring us any closer to understanding the identity of “H”, the ultimate controlling party of the tax structure.

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2 Comments on "The Day on the Green Files: Led Zeppelin worked for a Russian ballerina and Dutch radio hosts"

  1. I think H is the Mob.
    It was rumored that Peter Grant had connections to the Mob.

  2. George J Boes | 25th June 2024 at 1:33 am | Reply

    Interesting video on Fritz Rau.

    Also, his Wikipedia page (and other internet sources) credit him with connecting American blues artists with young British artists like the Stones, the Yardbirds & Clapton’s early solo career…..

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