Was all the good from OPM?
Rearranging the words “Alberto Vilar” spells “rob Vail later.” Is this simple irony or a dire warning if the guy is allowed to post bail from a Manhattan jail?Well, in actuality he was indeed “allowed” to attempt to make bail, but the $10 million apparently was too steep an amount for the Cuban-born investment wizard to quickly arrange.As usual, I am confused. Net worth is figured by subtracting total liabilities from total assets (what you own minus what you owe), and Vilar claims a net worth of almost $1 billion, yet he cannot write a check for a measly $1 million (the standard 10 percent required to not sleep behind federal bars)?Is my dense head missing something yet again? Not even one-tenth of one percent of his net is liquid? Was Arthur Andersen doing his books?Vilar, founder of New York-based Amerindo Investment Advisors, was jailed last week on an accusation that he was using $5 million of an investor’s funds to make donations to Washington & Jefferson College (his alma mater) and for payments to caterers and a dishwasher repair company.Perhaps the Maytag repair man was exceptionally lonely.This is probably as good a time as any to add that Gary Tanaka, Amerindo’s co-founder and co-chief executive, was also charged last week with stealing from investors and using the funds to buy race horses. He is currently in a London jail.If anything, I can certainly understand why Mr. Vilar and his buddies have spent so much time in Happy Valley over the last two decades. Come to think of it, maybe he is responsible for teaching so many of our local philanthropic wanna-bes how to quiescently perform such stoically altruistic deeds. Of course, here we seem to do it with tax dollars as opposed to personal investment dollars. But hey, who cares about the source as long as the benevolent means are being justified to somebody’s selfless end?Anyway, these next few weeks and months could be very interesting to watch. Presumed innocent until proven guilty and all that aside, those who have benefited from Vilar’s local philanthropic endeavors will be tripping over themselves backtracking to make sure their backsides are covered while maintaining facades of rose-colored cheeks and saintly smiles.All just in case the guy comes away clean and can start throwing the money in their general direction again.Those entrenched in good ol’ American cynicism (thanks to the likes of Charles Keating, Kenneth Lay, John Rigas, Michael Milken, etc.) will relish in each ugly turn of the legal page, as Assistant U.S. Attorney David Esseks said regarding Vilar, “The charges are very serious and very well-founded. … We fear that they are just the tip of the iceberg.”How deep the iceberg floats or how long it takes to melt is anybody’s guess.In the past seven years, Vilar has given away over $250 million of his (supposedly) own money to the lyric arts (operas and such), including $50 million to the Kennedy Center in Washington, $45 million to the Met in New York, $25 million to Covent Garden, $20 million to Valery Gergiev’s Kirov company in St Petersburg, $10 million plus to Placido Domingo’s Los Angeles Opera and various smaller, single-digit million gifts to Salzburg, Bayreuth, Glyndebourne and La Scala for productions that he apparently wanted to see. Locally, he was the main money man behind the perhaps inappropriately named Vilar Center, and also contributed heavily to the Bravo! Music Festival, as well as the Ford Amphitheater and many other local organizations.I mean to tell you this guy was loved more than the open-space crowd loves Menconi and Runyon. Local foundations would support Dowd Junction for a new sewer plant if they could increase their own revenue potential by kissing Vilar’s Caribbean-born derriere. The cherry on top came barely three years ago when Colorado Gov. Owens proclaimed July 19 as “Alberto Vilar Day.”Unfortunately, just a few months later local banks foreclosed upon three properties Vilar owned in Beaver Creek and Edwards to the tune of $2.74 million, and a recent check of http://www.colorado.gov makes no mention of the date.Hey, you think it was a sign? Can an omen be ironic as well as a foreboding prognostication? Who needs Viagra to go blind when we have philanthropists using OPM? But then again, guilty or not, Alberto Vilar has done a tremendous amount of good for Happy Valley. Here’s to hoping the only thing the man’s really guilty of is overzealous generosity. (I’m tipping a Belgian wheat beer toward the keyboard as I hit “send.”) Richard Carnes of Edwards writes a weekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at email@example.com.Vail, Colorado
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