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Arco to Make $10-Million Gift for Disney Hall

March 12, 1997|DIANE HAITHMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In a major step toward making the troubled Walt Disney Concert Hall a reality, Arco Corp. will announce a gift of $10 million toward the downtown hall's $115-million funding gap at a news conference this morning, sources close to the project said Tuesday.

Arco's contribution brings the accumulated new funds to $35.5 million, more than two-thirds of the $52.3-million goal set by Los Angeles County with a June 30 deadline. It is the largest gift to the proposed new home for the Los Angeles Philharmonic other than donations from Walt Disney's widow, Lillian Disney, who gave the initial $50 million in 1987. Additional gifts plus interest have made the family's contribution nearly $100 million.

Momentum has been building in support of the Frank Gehry-designed hall that just last year seemed doomed because of ballooning cost estimates and insufficient funds. Since December, gifts have included a $7.5-million anonymous donation; $5 million apiece from Mayor Richard Riordan and Eli Broad, chairman and chief executive of SunAmerica Inc.; $5 million from Times Mirror Co., parent company of the Los Angeles Times; and other smaller gifts. Riordan and Broad are spearheading the fund-raising campaign.

Broad said Tuesday, "We feel very confident that we will meet the county requirement of $50 million by June 30, and we are more confident than ever that we will meet our own, self-imposed goal of $100 million by that date." He added that fund-raisers have "major foundation gifts that are incubating." In a further note of optimism, Ernest Fleischmann, managing director of the Philharmonic, confirmed Tuesday that the orchestra is already planning programming for the hall's scheduled opening in 2001.

Although Arco spokesman Al Greenstein declined to comment on the gift Tuesday, he confirmed that the company plans to make "a significant announcement" at the news conference at 8:30 a.m. at downtown's Museum of Contemporary Art near the museum's exhibition of Disney Hall models. Mike R. Bowlin, president and CEO of Arco, is a member of an ad hoc committee of business leaders working in support of the hall.

Long a beacon of corporate philanthropy, Arco was a $9-million donor to the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles and has made contributions to MOCA, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Los Angeles Music Center.

In the early 1980s, the Arco Foundation donated as much as $30 million annually to charitable causes, until declining oil profits ate into company earnings beginning in 1985, Greenstein said. In 1994, the foundation gave away $13 million, the same year Arco downsized its small foundation staff. In 1995 and 1996, the foundation made gifts totaling $10 million each year.

In 1997, Greenstein called the foundation "alive and well" with a gift allocation of $14 million planned for the year. Nicholas Goldsborough, chief operating officer of the Los Angeles Music Center, would not confirm the details of the announcement in an interview Tuesday, but said "other than the Disney family gift, it will represent the largest gift to the campaign to date, and significantly advances the campaign toward the June 30 deadline of $52.3 million." Disney Hall is to become the fourth venue at the Music Center complex on county-owned land.

Goldsborough said that over the years Arco has made gifts totaling almost $5 million to the Music Center's Unified Fund, which helps support its resident companies, including the Philharmonic.

Goldsborough said that another gift this week of $1 million from a Music Center board of governors member he would not identify, as well as a collection of smaller gifts from other board members, are part of the current total.

Broad said that meeting their June goals will allow Disney fund-raisers to enter a wider campaign targeting the 6,000 to 10,000 previous donors and supporters of the Music Center. Disney Hall officials have said a grass-roots public campaign may follow.

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