The New York Times said that Henson's decision to seek a substantial pay cut from musicians "...led to a bruising 16-month lockout when they resisted." The story suggested that Henson's departure could pave the way for the return of former music director Osmo Vänskä, who resigned in October.
Vänskä has indicated he might wish to come back, but has publicly implied that he would not return until Henson left. On the morning after the musicians’ first post-lockout concert at Orchestra Hall, Vänskä told Minnesota Public Radio that “for any healing to begin at the orchestra, Michael Henson must go.” The Times story noted that "...this put the orchestra’s board into a bind: musicians, critics and many fans were clamoring for Mr. Vänskä's return, but to bring him back they might have to get rid of the administrator who executed their strategy to try to put the ensemble on sounder financial footing."
Henson joined the orchestra in 2007. He oversaw the $50 million Orchestra Hall renovation, and spearheaded $110 million in overall fundraising. But MPR News reported that Henson became a lightning rod during the bitter work stoppage, drawing ample criticism from both from musicians and audience members alike. During the lockout, in the fall of 2012, the musicians issued a vote of no confidence in Henson.
“It has been my privilege to serve the Minnesota Orchestra for the past seven seasons,” Henson said in a statement. “It has always been my aim to do what is right for the organization, however great the challenges. The right thing now is for me to work to ensure continuity during this transition to the next phase in the life of the Minnesota Orchestra, which I believe will be very bright.”
Vänskä will conduct the orchestra March 27-29 in Orchestra Hall, his first time back in almost two years.