The fight over Huguette Clark’s estate was settled Monday night, and the agreement established a New York-based Bellosguardo Foundation to promote the arts.
The foundation was gifted Clark’s Santa Barbara mansion, her $1.7 million doll collection and $4.5 million in cash, and the New York Attorney General’s Office will be putting together the nonprofit foundation. The foundation's Board of Directors will oversee the property and assets.
Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider will come up with nominations for seven of the foundation’s 10-member board, so the local community is well-represented, she told Noozhawk on Tuesday. The goal is to open up the Bellosguardo home and gardens to the public.
The other board members will be nominated by the Clark family, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and Clark’s California attorney, James Hurley.
Schneider will establish a working group to come up with a list of nominations.
“I believe the Attorney General’s Office worked to follow Ms. Clark’s wishes to the best extent possible under the circumstances, and respected the Santa Barbara community’s strong desire to see this property utilized in the public’s interest,” she said, adding that the foundation will significantly add to the community’s strong artistic and cultural heritage.
Local leaders have called for the estate’s preservation and formed the Friends of Bellosguardo — a community group committed to getting the foundation created.
There is also a separate, California-based corporation named the Bellosguardo Foundation that is headed by Hurley, former Santa Barbara mayor Sheila Lodge as secretary and Robert Emmons as chief financial officer.
However, the New York surrogate court judge didn’t allow the foundation to sit at the settlement table since Clark’s will at the center of court proceedings is what establishes the organization in the first place.
The California foundation has hired legal representation and filed an appeal to that decision on Monday.
Either way, the settlement agreement dictates that the New York foundation will be the one that oversees the property and assets in the will settlement.
According to NBC News investigative reporter Bill Dedman, Clark owed $82 million in gift taxes at the time of her death and the Santa Barbara estate could have to be sold to fund the settlement. The agreement signed Monday relies on the Internal Revenue Service forgiving the tax penalties since most of her gifts went to charity, Dedman reported.
Clark was the daughter of William Clark, a copper tycoon and Idaho senator at the turn of the last century who made his fortune from copper mining, banks and railroads. When Clark died in May 2011 just before her 105th birthday, a legal battle started over her two wills signed six weeks apart. Distant relatives from her father’s first marriage were cut out of the April 19, 2005, will and questioned the influence of Clark’s attorney and accountant in her later years.
Increasingly reclusive over the last decades of her life, she lived at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York for more than 20 years even as her Santa Barbara estate was said to be maintained at the ready for her arrival at any time. She reportedly hadn’t visited the Cabrillo Boulevard property in more than 50 years.