Aspen Music Festival won’t sell CEO’s house
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
ASPEN – An Aspen Music Festival and School official said Thursday that the nonprofit has no plans to sell the house currently used by Chief Executive Officer Alan Fletcher or to buy a larger house for the CEO that’s more suitable for entertaining.
Discussions of such actions were very preliminary and ended up being nixed by an AMFS real estate subcommittee, said Jenny Elliot, vice president of finance and administration for the local organization.
“We have no plans to sell the CEO house or buy a CEO house,” Elliot said. “We have no plans to do any of that. A lot of information got out [to the public] before any decisions were made.”
However, another AMFS committee, which oversees endowment assets, did recommend to the festival’s executive committee that a house donated by longtime volunteer Fred Lane should be placed up for sale, she said. That property, off Riverside Drive in east Aspen, was willed to the organization more than 20 years ago when Lane died, but there was a life estate provision tied to the transfer.
The recipient of the life estate provision no longer wants to use the house and recently signed it over to the festival, meaning AMFS owns it outright, Elliot said. She acknowledged that there has been some community speculation over whether the board was handling the Lane property in a manner that’s in keeping with Lane’s wishes.
AMFS officials “have agreed to sell the Fred Lane house,” Elliot said, adding that there are no stipulations preventing the festival from putting the house on the market. She described the house as a “tear down” on a small lot that carries significant redevelopment potential.
The controversy over potential AMFS real estate plans arose late last month when internal memorandums intended only for board members were leaked to festival critics and to local media. The memos state that the executive committee was planning to appoint a subcommittee to explore various proposals, including the sale of the Lane property as well as the east Aspen-area house currently used by Fletcher. Through revenue generated by those sales, AMFS would seek to buy a larger house for the CEO – one more suitable for entertaining and fundraising purposes.
“It is believed that for whatever we could sell them for, it is very likely in today’s Aspen market that we could acquire a house better suited for CEO use,” a memo from Kay Bucksbaum, chairman of the AMFS board of trustees, to board members states.
Actually, Bucksbaum’s memo largely contains options compiled by Elliot and Mike Murray, treasurer and chairman of the festival’s finance and investment committees, for board and committee consideration.
One talking point prepared by Elliot and Murray, according to a memo, says that the house in which Fletcher currently resides is inadequate. “The current three-bedroom house, while serving adequately in the past, has access limitations and limited space for festival entertaining by the CEO. The living quarters in general could be improved,” the memo states.
Another option they laid out for board members mentions the possibility of having to rent a house for Fletcher “should renovations in a newly acquired house be needed.”
Elliot told The Aspen Times that the decision to sell the Lane house without proceeding with the other options was not influenced by board-member or community pressure.
“It was purely based on real-estate market considerations,” she said. “It just didn’t seem like an opportune time to sell the CEO’s house.”
Barry Goldstein, a longtime supporter of the festival who is not on the board, said it would have been an inappropriate time for the AMFS board to buy an expensive home for its CEO given that the festival has faced revenue problems and recently cut its traditional winter program.
Also, it seems odd that board officials would deem the house where Fletcher resides as inadequate when only a few years ago, Fletcher handpicked the residence, Goldstein said.
“Fletcher got a new house of his choosing,” Goldstein said. “Now he wants another one? It’s just not the best market to be selling a house.”
Fletcher was out of town Thursday and could not be reached for comment, according to an AMFS employee.
Controversy has surrounded Fletcher’s tenure as the AMFS chief executive. In mid-October 2009, he was abruptly fired by the executive committee, only to be reinstated a few weeks later by the full board.
At the time, Fletcher acknowledged divisions within the organization, particularly between himself and then-Music Director David Zinman over the issue of faculty layoffs. Since then, other issues have arisen to the disdain of many supporters, such as the recent cancellation of the winter program.
“I love the Aspen Music Festival and hate to see the direction it’s going in,” Goldstein said.
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