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Keeping promises

Veronica Whitney
Part-time Beaver Creek resident Alberto Vilar over the past seven years has given more than $300 million to the arts, health and education communities in Vail Valley, the United States and across the world. Questions about whether he can keep his multiple financial commitments arised last week when The New York Times reported the philanthropist was late with $1.7 million in payments to two arts organizations on the East Coast. Saying the post-9/11 economy has posed a certain "problem of liquidity," he says he's fully committed to meeting his pledges.
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“I have rescheduled payment timetables,” said Vilar, who has a home in Beaver Creek and contributes yearly to nonprofits in the valley, including the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival and the Vail Valley Foundation. “I have not cancelled a single one of my projects.”

Questions about whether Vilar can keep his multiple commitments in the arts, health care and education arised last week when The New York Times reported the philanthropist was late with $1.7 million in payments to two arts organizations. Lorin Maazel, the new music director of the New York Philharmonic, said because of Vilar’s discontinuation of support he had to seek other sources for the $700,000 still needed to fund the Maazel-Vilar Conductor’s Competition at Carnegie Hall.

The newspaper also reported the Washington Opera had removed Vilar’s name from the Vilar/Domingo Young Artist Program when he didn’t complete a $1 million pledge. Richard Dukas, Vilar’s spokesman, acknowledged the delay in payments, but said he won’t stand behind the numbers.

The $1.7 million reportedly owed, however, pales in comparison to the $300 million Vilar has given in the past seven years to the arts, health and education communities in the United States and across the world. Part of that endowment has been given to nonprofit organizations in the Vail Valley. In addition, last year Vilar made the largest contribution in the history of Denver’s National Jewish Medical and Research Center, giving $25 million for the construction of a research center for asthma and other inflammatory lung diseases.

Vilar has pledged $500,000 a year for the 2002, “03 and “04 seasons of the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival. With that pledge in mind, festival organizers engaged the New York Philharmonic for next season. Half of Vilar’s contribution will go to pay for that, said John Giovando, executive director of Bravo!.

“He’s been late paying us, but there hasn’t been any indication that he (Vilar) isn’t going to met his commitment,” Giovando said. “In fact, it’s the opposite. I trust him and his commitment to this valley.”

Giovando said Vilar still owes Bravo! the $500,000 for the 2002 season, but he said he expects the payment before the end of the year.

“Alberto Vilar’s pledge to us will be honored,” he said. “There’s been no indication from his office that it will not be met. And we continue our commitment with the New York Philharmonic.”

Giovando said he can’t consider Vilar’s delay a broken promise.

“In fact, we nominated him for the National Medal of Arts for the patron category, which is awarded by President Bush,” Giovando added.

Vilar also has given more than $9 million dollars to both the Vilar Center for the Arts and the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, said Mia Vlaar, director of marketing for the Vail Valley Foundation.

“We have a great relationship with Alberto Vilar,” Vlaar said. “We wouldn’t comment on him or any other of our donors. It wouldn’t be fair because they provide such help to us.”

The renovation of the lobby area of the Vilar Center, which has been planned for several years now, Vlaar said, will have to wait for the time to be right for both Vilar and the Vilar Center before the foundation proceeds with those plans.

“The foundation owes Vilar a tremendous debt of gratitude for all the support he has provided to the community since 1997,” Vlaar said.

Vilar, 61, founder of Amerindo Investment Advisors, said he had to reschedule payment timetables because of the unprecedented, 31-month-long bear market for equities in general and technology in particular. Having made his fortune investing in companies like Microsoft, Cisco, AOL and eBay, he reinvested into privately owned, pre-IPO emerging technology companies.

“These private companies have not been able to come to the public market,” he said, “which has caused a liquidity problem for me as well as for all other venture investors.”

As a result, the Amerindo Technology fund fell almost 65 percent in 2000 and more than 50 percent in 2001. Through the end of last month, it was down another 40 percent, said Richard Dukas, Vilar’s spokesman.

“He’s not happy about the publicity,” Dukas said. “He was surprised and disappointed of the way they came out. … It’s been a difficult couple years for him physically (four surgeries in two years) and financially with the severe down turn of the market.”

Giovando said since Sept. 11, 2001, there has been a drop in contributions of 7 percent.

“I don’t think being late is a big thing,” Giovando said. “After all, who could have anticipated 9/11 and the fall of the stock market? It’s going to make us scramble, but we can deal with a late payment.”

Vilar, however, doesn’t want to make public the payment timetables, Dukas said.

“We don’t want to get into a discussion of when he is paying and when he is not, or what organization is up to date,” he said.

Vilar said he expects that business conditions will improve sufficiently, and by the middle of next year the technology markets will reopen, enabling him to continue his active philanthropy.

“Opera is my greatest passion,” he said, “and I believe that I have helped to preserve its legacy.”

Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at vwhitney@vaildaily.com.


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