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Donor Vilar Owes $500,000 to L.A. Opera for 'Lohengrin'

September 21, 2002|DIANE HAITHMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

On Friday, Los Angeles Opera joined a growing chorus of arts organizations who are acknowledging that high-tech billionaire and mega-donor Alberto W. Vilar--whose Amerindo Investments Inc. has suffered deep stock losses in the past three years--is failing to meet some of his major financial commitments to those organizations.

L.A. Opera spokesman Gary Murphy confirmed that Vilar has not paid the final $500,000 installment of the $1 million the donor and board member had committed to last season's production of Wagner's "Lohengrin." That payment was due several days ago, Murphy said.

Murphy added that the opera has found another donor, the Forman Family Fund, to underwrite its production of "Don Giovanni" later in the season, for an undisclosed amount. Vilar was to underwrite that production as part of an overall $10-million pledge to L.A. Opera to fund new productions, as well as an education program for young artists.

L.A. Opera has already changed course once this season over a money disagreement with Vilar. Several weeks ago, the company canceled its $3-million production of Prokofiev's "War and Peace," scheduled for October, after Vilar refused to contribute additional funds, as well as to adjust his payment schedule to pay upfront. Opera officials, as well as Vilar, called that an amicable decision, and Vilar, who was unavailable for comment Friday, remains on the opera's board of directors.

Vilar's company, Amerindo, has gone from managing $5.5 billion to $1.1 billion since January 2000. Vilar also suffered major health problems and surgeries in late 2001.

The news from Los Angeles Opera comes after confirmations earlier this week from the New York Philharmonic and Washington Opera that Vilar has missed payments recently.

New York Philharmonic music director Lorin Maazel said Vilar failed to supply $700,000 of funds promised for next week's Maazel-Vilar Conductors Competition at Carnegie Hall, forcing Maazel to put up his own money and seek other funding sources. Vilar also missed his most recent payment to Washington Opera for its Vilar/Domingo Young Artist Program, prompting that company to remove Vilar's name from the program.

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