Royal Opera says Vilar in breach of pledge
LONDON Britains Royal Opera House has declared troubled philanthropist Alberto Vilar in breach of a multimillion-dollar pledge that saw the company put his name on its flagship building. It gave him 60 days to resume payments.It is the latest sour note in the relationship between Britains leading opera house and the Cuban-born financier, who was arrested in New York in May on charges of business fraud. Vilar is well-known in the Vail Valley, having contributed millions to the performing arts center in Beaver Creek that bears his name as well as other local arts organizations.In a statement, the Royal Opera House said Vilar was in material breach of his 1999 pledge of $17 million to the companys development fund. In return for the donation, the company renamed its Floral Hall an iron-and-glass-roofed atrium overlooking Londons Covent Garden market the Vilar Floral Hall.Opera spokesman Christopher Millard said Wednesday that no decision had been made on removing Vilars name from the building. Obviously, were taking legal advice, he said.Millard said Vilar had given the company $5 million of the promised redevelopment money and had not made a payment since March 2002.We have renegotiated the schedule of payments on several occasions, said the July 13 statement issued by the chair of the operas trustees, Dame Judith Mayhew Jonas. However, he has consistently failed to reach these new deadlines and in doing so is in breach of all agreements.The statement said that if Vilar did not resume payments within 60 days, the ROH will then be entitled to notify Mr. Vilar that the agreement is terminated.Last month the company dropped Vilars name from its young artists program, saying he had fallen behind on promised payments.Vilar, who Forbes magazine once said was worth $950 million, tried to build a legacy of opera sponsorship with the fortune he earned and lost in the rise and fall of the 1990s dot-com era.The financier spent an estimated $225 million adorning opera houses throughout the world with his name. Besides the $17 million he donated to the Royal Opera House, Vilar gave $20 million to the Metropolitan Opera in New York and $14 million to St. Petersburgs Kirov Opera.In May he was arrested and charged with engaging in fraudulent, deceptive and manipulative business practices. Prosecutors said Vilar used an investors money as a personal piggy bank to pay personal expenses and make charitable donations.Prosecutors say Vilar and colleague Gary Alan Tanaka cheated an investor in their firm out of $5 million, which they spent on personal expenses and contributions to entities including the American Academy in Berlin and Vilars alma mater, Washington & Jefferson College.The charges carry a potential penalty of more than 10 years in prison. Vilar is free on $10 million bail as he awaits trial.