If you are interested in one of the most intriguing and perplexing planned giving tales (Planned Giving Nightmare from the pg professional perspective), do a quick google search on Huguette Clark (search this blog, too!). It is a story that spanned over a century, that started in the 1800’s and ended up being one of greatest planned giving nightmares anyone could have ever dreamed up (except that it actually happened).
For those who already know the story, this week’s news about the late Ms. Clark, who lived for over 20 years at Beth Israel Medical Center in NY where I was also the planned giving director/consultant between 2004 and 2007, finally brings the story to a close.
Firstly, the criminal investigations into her attorney and accountant were finally closed! http://www.nbcnews.com/news/investigations/no-charges-heiress-huguette-clarks-300-million-fortune-n86951
Secondly, they are finally auctioning off all of her interesting possessions like her Stradivarius violin worth an estimated $7.5 million and a Claude Monet painting valued as high as $30 million. http://www.today.com/news/7m-violin-30m-monet-huguette-clarks-treasures-auction-1D79562788
Lastly, Bill Dedman, the investigative reporter who single handedly brought the story to the light, co-authored a very interesting book! Not a planned giving book – which does help: http://emptymansionsbook.com/
Now, all we have left to do is to visit Huguette’s mansion in Santa Barbara, CA, when it is finally opened to the public (hopefully someday soon).
Of course, my thoughts on this story always go back to “thinking twice” before acting – that details of your actions may be revealed someday to the public. Think about how the NY Post would report your actions! I suspect the Beth Israel folks, who really saved and extended Ms. Clark’s life, are still wondering if they could done things differently. Now that Beth Israel Hospital merged into Mt. Sinai, I am sure the nightmare has already faded from the corporate conscience. But, those of us who were in the fundraising program at Beth Israel (and probably the legal staff), will never forget this one.