Billionaire Perelman Criticizes Transparency at Carnegie Hall

  • Questions related-party transactions and board oversight
  • Financier succeeded Sandy Weill as board chairman in February

Discord has enveloped the board of New York’s Carnegie Hall after billionaire Ronald O. Perelman accused its executive and artistic director of failing to be transparent about the concert hall’s financial operations.

Financier Perelman, who replaced Sanford I. Weill as chairman of the institution’s board of trustees in February, questioned Clive Gillinson’s handling of related-party transactions in an e-mailed letter to the trustees on Wednesday. He also wrote of his concern about whether the board was exercising sufficient oversight.

“My concerns initially arose because of an inability to obtain a full picture of Carnegie Hall’s financial operations, especially as it related to profits and losses involving performance,” Perelman wrote. “In addition, I was troubled by the manner in which related-party transactions were being identified, vetted and approved.”

That came to a head on Aug. 18, when Perelman suspended Gillinson, who was reinstated the following day at a meeting of the Executive Committee which also agreed to appoint a lawyer to investigate the governance concerns, according to the letter. Perelman said that the process had stalled and said he would call for the audit committee to take over the inquiry at a meeting on Thursday.

Warner Prize

Perelman’s letter mentions the Warner Prize, an award established with support from the Blavatnik Family Foundation, an arts endowment headed by Carnegie trustee Len Blavatnik. Blavatnik also owns Warner Music Group.

The prize grants $100,000, a showcase performance at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall and the chance to record for the Warner Classics record label to a classical musician aged 18 to 35, according to a November 2014 press release from Warner Music. Perelman wrote that the prize represents the kind of related-party transactions that require more transparency and that Gillinson defied a request to put the prize on hold after the board sought advice from lawyer Jason Lilien.

Corinne Zadik, public relations manager for Carnegie Hall, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. A call and e-mail to Gillinson weren’t immediately returned. A call to Weill’s office line wasn’t returned. Christine Taylor, a representative for Perelman, and James Steven of Warner Music declined to comment.

Gillinson has been executive and creative director of the venue since 2005, and oversees management of all aspects of its operations, according to its website. Born in India, his mother was a professional cellist. He won the top cello prize at London’s Royal Academy of Music and played in the London Symphony Orchestra before becoming its managing director.

Carnegie Hall opened in 1891 and has been owned by the city of New York since 1960. As well as classical-music performances it has hosted performers including Billie Holiday, the Rolling Stones and Nina Simone. There are 78 trustees, including Beatrice Santo Domingo, Oscar de la Renta, Robert Kraft, James Wolfensohn and Yo-Yo Ma.

— With assistance by Lauren Streib

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