Unions ask: Could NY City Opera’s move invalidate endowment?

Posted on: July 19, 2011

In Tuesday’s (7/19) New York Times, Daniel J. Wakin writes, “The beleaguered New York City Opera may be facing a new hurdle: questions about whether its move from Lincoln Center would place much of the company’s dwindling endowment at risk. Ratcheting up their campaign against management, City Opera’s unions are charging that the move violates the terms of a gift made by Lila and DeWitt Wallace, the founders of Reader’s Digest. The gift served as the bulk of City Opera’s endowment. The unions filed a complaint on Monday with the New York State attorney general’s office, which oversees nonprofits. During the 2008-9 season the office gave permission for City Opera to use $23.5 million from the Wallace endowment to pay debts and finance operations. … By deciding to leave, City Opera ‘has disregarded and, in its own words, flouted the “fundamental purpose” of the Wallace Fund to support “a constituent part of the Lincoln Center campus,” ’ the unions said. The move is ‘illegal under the terms, donor intent and purposes of the Wallace Fund.’ … Given how much the endowment has dwindled—to about $4.8 million—the practical effects of the challenge are uncertain. About $2.9 million of the current endowment is Wallace money. City Opera’s budget for next season is $13 million.”

Posted July 19, 2011