Vail Daily letter: The right thing for Vilar to do
Vail, CO, Colorado
To Rick Silverman: Thank you very, very much for shedding new light on the Alberto Vilar debate. Had Vilar’s buddies explained the legal implications for the center rather than stupidly defended a thief’s “character,” they might have been taken seriously.
Not-for-profit arts institutions belong to the people. They are not owned by an individual or a board.
And as citizens of this valley, we all have the right to express our outrage without being held to ridiculous “Well, maybe if you would like to donate $7 million” childishness without an explanation of the contractual complications.
If what you say is true, Mr. Silverman, wow. That is a bit of a sticky wicket.
I am actually a little embarrassed for Mr. Vilar that he had to pay for the honor of having his name on the center.
Most everyone in the valley, I believe, has assumed the naming was originally a gracious tribute to Vilar having generously and selflessly helped raise money for the center before the conviction showed his real character and put in doubt the ownership of that money, of course.
When you have to pay for a tribute, it isn’t really much of an honor, is it? Having strings attached to your “donation” sort of paints it all in a different light.
While working in Hollywood, I learned that the Hollywood Walk of Fame squares were purchased by the individual celebrities. Once knowing that, I was no longer impressed by the “honor.”
On Broadway, theaters are named as an homage to someone whose contribution to the arts was significant. The Brooks Atkinson, Eugene O’Neill, Al Hirschfeld, Ethel Barrymore, Richard Rodgers and Helen Hayes theaters, as well as the recently named Jerry Orbach Theater in New York, were not business deals. They were tributes.
Having run and worked for many not-for-profit theaters, I have been aware of donors purchasing the right to have their names adorn seats or bricks or various ancillary items because of having made large contributions. But never did I hear of the name of a theater being sold outright for the life of the institution. I’m sure it has been done, but it is not the norm, nor is it a very good idea.
And while it probably doesn’t violate not-for-profit law, it sure isn’t my idea of ethically kosher since it does award ownership of a significant asset of the institution — its very name — to an individual. Little did the center know that the value of that name would be so greatly diminished.
The center could, of course, mount a capital campaign to buy Vilar out of the contract. But in these economic times, their efforts are much better spent fundraising for the actual arts. This I understand.
The problem, of course, is that the center is now bound in perpetuity to bear the name of a thief.
One would have hoped that the center’s lawyers would have protected it and included something along the lines of a morals clause so that, should the donor’s name be sullied through actions of his own, the obligation to keep it attached to the center would be null and void.
See, this is important because it is the center’s name. It is its identity.
It is unfortunate that the powers that be did not foresee this potential problem (which is why it is never a good idea to sell an institution’s name). But as it appears to be the kettle of fish they are in, they are between a rock and a hard place, it would seem.
I consider it fairly classless to have an ego so large that one would tie a contribution to a lifetime self-tribute. It is for others to pay you tribute, not for you to require or buy it. But then, generosity is not always truly altruistic and wealth is not necessarily synonymous with class.
So it would appear the only real solution to this is for Mr. Vilar himself to show the class he has so sorely lacked heretofore.
If he truly cares about the center, Beaver Creek and the community, he should altruistically release the center from the obligation to keep his name without demanding any buyout or financial return. It is he who created this situation and it was he who tarnished the name he bound the center to display and it is he who should right this wrong. No one should have to compensate this man for doing right by the center whose identity he so egregiously wronged.
Vilar should graciously step aside, declare the naming agreement null and void, pay any renaming costs since he alone disgraced the name it now bears and allow the center to move on with dignity as the Beaver Creek Performing Arts Center. That is what a decent man and true, selfless arts lover would do.
Whataya wanna bet that doesn’t happen?
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