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Friday, June 10, 2005

Vilar's Brokedown Palace

by: Theresa Sim

The story of Alberto Vilar is shaping up to be anything but straightforward. Although the Amerindo co-founder was busted last month after Lily Cates, a former investor, reported his fraudulent activities to investors, it appears the Cates story is just the tip of the iceberg.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Vilar was addicted to making promises (and incurring expenses) he couldn't keep -- to charities, arts organizations, friends, drycleaners, hotels and ultimately, investors of Amerindo's funds.

The Journal reports that of $46.7 million that Vilar has pledged to the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival, Columbia University, the Los Angeles Opera, and the National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver, he was only delivered $2.1 million (which includes a $1.3 million donated on Vilar's behalf from Placido Domingo).

And those are just his current charity debts. In the past, Vilar has followed the pattern of behavior -- pledging $20 million to the Metropolitan Opera in 1988 (and donating nothing), pledging $17 million to the British Royal Opera House in 1999, $14 million to the St. Petersburg-based Kirov Opera, and $5 million to Carnegie Hall. It is unclear exactly how many of those pledges remain, but the Journal reported simply "millions."

The donations to charity were just one side of a grandiose image which Vilar struggled to keep up with.

In 2002, three of Vilar's Colorado homes were foreclosed, and money owed to Vilar's housekeeper, dry cleaners and an Austrian hotel were unpaid, reports the Journal. Vilar was also forced to stop renovating his United Nations Plaza apartment to fit a 70-seat concert space. But even then, Vilar bought two apartments -- one for his housekeeper and one for a childhood friend.

And right before he was arrested, Vilar had promised to pay graduate school tuition for his barber's daughter. Vilar, who has been unable to raise $4 million in property and assets for his bail, has been in jail for the past two weeks.

"His whole life has always been a fantasy," ex-Amerindo money manager, Sarah Gordon, told the Journal. Amerindo "could never create the kind of wealth he said he had, and Albert was never who he said he was," said Gordon.  

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