London's Royal Opera House has dropped the name of its most prominent benefactor, financier Alberto William Vilar, from its young artists program following his failure to deliver on pledges.
The Cuban-born Vilar, who was arrested in New York on fraud charges in May, had fallen behind on payments of his $17 million pledge to the opera house, the opera company confirmed Monday. He made his last payment to the young artists program in March 2002.
A week ago, the Royal Opera announced the former Vilar Young Artists Program would be known as the Jette Parker Young Artists Program, honoring the chairman of the Oak Foundation, a philanthropic organization set up by British millionaire Alan M. Parker. The announcement did not mention Vilar.
A spokesman said the opera house had been in discussions for several weeks with Vilar about the likelihood of restarting payments when he was arrested and charged with investment adviser fraud, securities fraud, mail and wire fraud and money laundering. Prosecutors said Vilar used an investor's money "as a personal piggy bank" to pay his own expenses and make charitable donations.
Vilar, who was freed last week after posting $4 million in assets to secure $10 million bail, could face more than 10 years in prison if convicted.
The spokesman for the opera house said the name change was not related to Vilar's arrest.
Vilar, once valued at $950 million by Forbes magazine, tried to build a legacy of opera sponsorship with the fortune he earned and lost in the rise and fall of the dot-com era of the late 1990s.
The philanthropist spent an estimated $225 million on charitable donations, including adorning opera houses throughout the world with his name. Besides the $17 million pledged to the Royal Opera House, Vilar pledged $20 million to the Metropolitan Opera in New York and $14 million to St. Petersburg's Kirov Opera, as well as $50 million to the Kennedy Center.
His pledge to the Royal Opera House also put Vilar's name on one of its most famous spaces, the Vilar Floral Hall, which has not been renamed.