What: The Bellosguardo Foundation Inc., a tax-exempt foundation incorporated in New York to administer a Santa Barbara cliff-top property called Bellosguardo (Italian for “beautiful lookout”) — otherwise known as the Clark Estate.
Where: The Clark Estate is a storied 23-acre landmark that features a 21,666-square-foot French-style chateau on a mesa overlooking the ocean at 1407 Cabrillo Blvd. near East Beach, replete with a garage containing two pristine automobiles (including a Cadillac) from 1933 — and a doll collection worth $1.7 million.
When: Bellosguardo was bequeathed to Santa Barbara and its community by the late Huguette Clark, the “Copper King” heiress who died two weeks before her 105th birthday in 2011. Her will specifically stipulated that a Bellosguardo foundation be created as a charity “for the primary purpose of fostering and promoting the arts.” And thus, after a lengthy dispute, first with assorted relatives who sued over the will and then with the IRS over gift taxes, a foundation was created to ensure that the terms of Ms. Huguette’s bequeathal were met.
Who: The foundation’s president is Jeremy Lindaman, appointed to this position in 2014 by Helene Schneider when she was Santa Barbara’s mayor.
How: Mr. Lindaman was Ms. Schneider’s campaign manager. Some have pointed out the conflict-of-interest impropriety of appointing to this post a career political operative with close ties to the then mayor — an operative with zero experience running a foundation and only 34 years of age at the time.
This cushiony position comes with an annual salary of $120,000. A document filed with the IRS in 2015-16 claimed that Mr. Lindaman works at this job for a mere 10 hours per week (which was later “corrected”), but even this small amount of time seems surprising since almost nothing appears to actually happen at the estate aside from routine maintenance.
But wait. There’s this:
We received reports that an elaborate wedding took place at the Clark Estate during Labor Day weekend in early September. It was apparently a grand affair with large tents and security. This was not a public event, which is what the foundation was chartered to provide, suggesting that the estate is possibly being managed as if it were someone’s private club.
Such a notion, of course, runs contrary to the foundation’s Articles of Incorporation filed in June 2011 with the Office of the California Secretary of State.
The articles say nothing about private weddings or any private events closed to the public (except perhaps fundraising, which is actually open to members of the public willing to give a donation). In fact, the whole purpose for creating the foundation was to make the Clark Estate available to the Santa’s Barbara community, along the lines of what the foundation states on its own website: “Bellosguardo will become a new home for art, music, history and culture.”
Or, as Ms. Schneider, when mayor, said of the city’s obligation: “Open the Bellosguardo house and gardens to the public as a center that will foster and promote the arts.”
When cornered these days, Ms. Schneider blames criticism of her sorrowful Bellosguardo legacy on politics, which in our opinion is not only pure bunkum but, sadly, how most politicians these days defend their poor judgment and very real transgressions.
In short, the foundation is supposed to be operating for the benefit of the public — and striving (for how many years now?) to open the estate to the public. After all, this was Huguette Clark’s vision: perpetuating the arts — and her gift — to the people of Santa Barbara.
A gift to you.
THE CORRESPONDENCE BEGINS
On Sept. 7, The Investigator dispatched this email to foundation president Jeremy Lindaman:
“It has been brought to my attention that those in control of the Bellosguardo Foundation have been running private events at the Clark Estate as recently as this past weekend.
“The last I heard (in May), the City’s Planning Division found the foundation’s application for this kind of activity ‘incomplete.’
“Has something changed?
“Has the foundation’s application been completed and approved?
“If so, when — and approved by whom?
“I have also heard that you may be currently residing on the Clark Estate and would like to know if there is any truth to this.”
Three weeks later, on Sept. 27 and no response from Mr. Lindaman nor anyone else at the foundation, we re-sent our email to Mr. Lindaman (lest it went unnoticed or to spam) along with this update:
“I’ve had no reply to my email of 7 September.
“I understand that another wedding event at the Clark Estate is now being planned. Readers of my column are asking me if these events are going through the foundation’s accounting process or if the estate is being rented out privately off the books.
“A simple denial will suffice.”
AN ENCAPSULATED HISTORY
While we await with baited breath a reply from the Bellosguardo Foundation, here is a brief history of the Clark Estate.
The last time heiress Huguette Clark visited her magnificent estate was in 1953, before it was even bequeathed to her upon the death of her mother. (Huguette lived a hermetic existence in New York City, and when asked why she would not return to Santa Barbara, said simply, “I always think of times there with my mother, and it makes me very sad.”)
Huguette’s father, William Andrews Clark, was an early robber baron and later a U.S. senator from Montana, elected in January 1899 but removed the following April “on account of briberies and corrupt practices by his agents” after which he was chosen, in a tricky political maneuver, to fill the appointment of his own vacancy (!).
W.A. Clark stripped Montana — and later, Arizona — of its copper at a time when it was much needed for a new invention called electricity along with transatlantic cables and telephone lines.
Business boomed, especially with the advent of World War I and the need for copper to manufacture weapons.
Clark also founded Las Vegas and a railway line that connected Salt Lake City to Los Angeles via Vegas — with a train on which he kept two luxurious Pullman cars for his private use.
In 1907, The New York Times calculated that W.A. Clark was wealthier than John D. Rockefeller. That same year (if published posthumously), Mark Twain wrote of W.A.: “He is as rotten a human being as can be found under the flag; he is a shame to the American nation … and his proper place was the penitentiary, with a chain and ball on his legs.”
A fabulous book about W.A. Clark, “Empty Mansions,” by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr., quotes professor of history Keith Edgerton of Montana State University: “The cumulative sentiment here is that he made a fortune off of the state’s resources in the free-wheeling laissez-faire times of the late 19th century, prostituted the political system with his wealth and power, exploited the working class for his own gain, left an environmental wreck behind and took his millions to other places to benefit a handful of others. And in some ways, the state has never really recovered from it all.”
In 1923, Clark purchased his Santa Barbara property, which he’d been renting as a vacation home, for $300,000 cash and, five years later, Huguette (pronounced “oo-GET”— she was born in Paris), the second daughter of Clark’s second wife, was wedded on its grounds. (Her marriage to William Gower lasted only nine months due to Huguette’s refusal to consummate it.)
Five years later the Italian villa was razed — having been damaged by the earthquake of 1925 — and replaced with a splendorous French-style chateau built with reinforced concrete and 16-inch walls to render it quake-proof — and decorated by Huguette’s mother, Anna LaChapelle Clark.
The Copper King died at age 86 in 1925, leaving an estate of around $200 million (a few billion in today’s money), of which one-fifth went to Huguette.
Today the estate is appraised at $85 million.
It was also Huguette who gifted Santa Barbara $50,000 in 1928 to create the Andree Clark Bird Refuge (in memory of her older sister, who died in 1917 at age 17 from spinal meningitis) on city land across Cabrillo Boulevard from the estate.
THE CORRESPONDENCE CONTINUES
Well, now it is one week later and still no word from the foundation.
So off goes my third email request to Jeremy Lindaman for clarification on matters of concern to the media and the Santa Barbara community.
“I note that you did not respond with a denial, which leaves my concerned readers and myself fearing the worst.
“May I remind you that the Bellosguardo Foundation is a 501c3 tax-exempt, nonprofit foundation accountable to the California Attorney General’s Office, the Charity’s Bureau in New York, the IRS, the City of Santa Barbara — and to the public.
“In the interest of transparency, I would be grateful for a reply to my emails so that I, as a member of the media, may report to the public that you have nothing to hide.”
The third time was lucky. Because Mr. Lindaman’s terse reply arrived just 32 minutes later.
“All proceeds from these events go to the Foundation — nothing is ‘off the books.’ I deny these accusations.”
Of course, we had an important follow-up question:
“I note that the foundation’s Articles of Incorporation filed in June 2011 with the Office of the California Secretary of State that the Clark Estate is to be used ‘exclusively for charitable, scientific, literary, or educational purposes.’ By what authority is the Bellosguardo Foundation booking out for private events that are not fundraisers?”
WHAT WE ARE LEFT WITH
OK, so we did “who,” “what,” “where,” “when” and “how.”
So now it’s time for “why.”
These are the questions that beg to be asked:
Aside from renting out the estate for the odd private event, what has Jeremy Lindaman actually accomplished for this foundation (and to justify his salary) over the past seven years? Someone, please, think of something — and tell us. We truly want to know.
More important, why are Huguette Clark’s final wishes — to open the estate as a cultural center for the people of Santa Barbara — not being honored by those appointed by the city to do so?
Instead, we have private events along with allegations that those running the foundation are flaunting its bylaws. Oh, add reports of alleged mismanagement and alleged favoritism to the baker’s mix — and what do you get? A batch of rancid donuts leading to a foul stench wafting in from, not the smelly Bird Refuge, but the mesa upon which sits the Clark Estate.
Not exactly what Huguette Clark had in mind with her bequeathal.
To Mayor Cathy Murillo or Randy Rowse (or whoever else the next mayor may be) and Santa Barbara City Council-persons: Please look into the Bellosguardo Foundation and Clark Estate with a view toward removing Jeremy Lindaman as its president. You have an obligation to Santa Barbara’s community to ensure that the foundation and estate are properly run.
After seven years of earning six figures per annum, Mr. Lindaman has failed to execute the foundation’s mission: opening the estate to the public.
And unbefitting a president of a tax-exempt nonprofit, Mr. Lindaman has also failed — and failed miserably — to be transparent about whatever the heck is going on over there.
Robert Eringer is a longtime Montecito author with vast experience in investigative journalism. He welcomes questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.