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After 3 Years, Bellosguardo Estate in Santa Barbara Still in IRS Limbo

Financial records show Bellosguardo Foundation is soliciting donors and paying executive director Jeremy Lindaman a generous salary with Huguette Clark estate's money

Three years after board members were appointed to the Bellosguardo Foundation, which was created to manage the late mining heiress Huguette Clark’s estate near Santa Barbara’s East Beach, little progress has been made about its future.
Three years after board members were appointed to the Bellosguardo Foundation, which was created to manage the late mining heiress Huguette Clark’s estate near Santa Barbara’s East Beach, little progress has been made about its future. (Max Rosenberg / Santa Barbara Aviation photo)

It’s been three years since board members were appointed to the Bellosguardo Foundation, a Santa Barbara nonprofit created to manage the 23-acre oceanfront estate of the same name, and the community is no closer to knowing what will happen to the property.

The hilltop estate overlooking East Beach and the Andrée Clark Bird Refuge is in an administrative limbo itself, managed by the New York County Public Administrator’s Office while the Internal Revenue Service decides whether to waive unpaid gift tax penalties.

But financial records show the foundation has been spending the estate’s money in the meantime, chiefly on a salary for executive director Jeremy Lindaman.

Bellosguardo, the property at 1407 E. Cabrillo Blvd., was owned by mining heiress Huguette Clark, who died in 2011 at the age of 104 with a $300 million fortune.

She was the daughter of William Clark, an industrialist and U.S. senator from Montana who made his fortune from mining, banks and railroads.

When Clark died, a legal battle started over her two wills, and the resulting settlement created a New York-based nonprofit foundation for the arts.

The settlement also gave the Bellosguardo Foundation the Santa Barbara property, Clark’s $1.7 million doll collection, and about $4.5 million in cash.

The goal is to open the mansion and gardens to the public.

The Bellosguardo Foundation’s 19-member board of directors was formed in October 2014, and the board is still waiting on the IRS’ decision on unpaid taxes, and a potential transfer of assets to the foundation.

It’s possible that more of Clark’s estate assets would have to be sold to cover the costs of the settlement.

“The IRS is still not 100-percent satisfied, so nothing has changed with the ownership of the property,” Lindaman told Noozhawk on Thursday. “It’s still owned by the estate as it has been.

The Bellosguardo Estate in Santa Barbara reportedly has $12 million of deferred maintenance. Click to view larger
The Bellosguardo Estate in Santa Barbara reportedly has $12 million of deferred maintenance. (Noozhawk file photo)

“We are the residual beneficiary of the estate. The estate itself has lingering IRS issues that all resonate from the failure to pay gift taxes, generation-skipping taxes, while she was alive.”

The New York County Public Administrator’s Office is the agency dealing with the IRS issue, he added.

“I’m the president of the foundation and we are, you know, doing recruiting of potential donors and interfacing with New York, and hopefully setting everything up for a successful transfer of the property,” Lindaman said.

James Hurley, a foundation board member and attorney with Price, Postel & Parma LLP who worked for Clark (though they never met), said the board has met three times, most recently six or seven months ago.

“I don’t know a thing even though I’m on the board,” he told Noozhawk.

“We met six months ago to say it’s still in litigation. No one’s contacted me in six months.”

Hurley said television and film producer Dick Wolf, the board chairman, “has been running the whole show.”

While the board has many members with nonprofit, private foundation and arts experience, Lindaman’s background is in political consulting.

He is the longtime consultant to Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider, who nominated board members and told Noozhawk in 2015 that she wasn’t involved in the board’s staffing or policy decisions.

Board members have been unsure who hired Lindaman, and whether he was paid.

Hurley said the hiring was not a board decision.

“I have no idea how he even got in the picture,” he said.

Lindaman told Noozhawk the foundation has been looking for donors, but the only expenses reported thus far are for his own salary and some legal fees.

Financial documents filed for 2014 and 2015 show that Lindaman received a salary of $110,000 and $80,000, respectively, for approximately 10 hours of work a week.

He is listed as president of the organization, with Wolf listed as board chairman.

The Bellosguardo Foundation’s IRS Form 990 for 2014 — which was filed on May 20, 2016 — show the estate of Huguette Clark, via the New York County Public Administrator, contributed $150,000.

The foundation spent $130,937, including Lindaman’s $110,000 salary, payroll taxes and $11,873 in legal fees.

The summary of direct charitable activities states: “Entity formed to receive the Huguette Clark estate assets, to be operated as a community center to promote the arts. Current year activities are board formation, community outreach and monitoring estate proceedings.”

Documents for 2015 show the foundation received $105,000, including $30,000 from the Clark estate.

Two board members also made contributions: Wolf gave $50,000 and board secretary Sandi Nicholson gave $5,000.

When contacted by Noozhawk, a publicist said Wolf “respectfully declines to comment.”

The WWW Foundation of South Pasadena, part of the Whittier Trust, donated $20,000 to the Bellosguardo Foundation in 2015.

The majority of contributions from the WWW Foundation come from director grants, and one of the eight family members on the board issued the grant to the Bellosguardo Foundation, said Pegine Grayson, senior vice president of philanthropic services at the Whittier Trust.

That particular director, whose name was not disclosed, is “extremely generous to the arts and culture community in Santa Barbara” and the gift is consistent with her grantmaking, Grayson added.

Hearing a list of Bellosguardo Foundation board members, Grayson said the director isn’t on the board, but noted that several WWW Foundation board members live in Santa Barbara.

The New York County Public Administrator’s Office has not responded to Noozhawk’s requests for comment as of Thursday.

There is a lot of community interest in the property, a 1930s mansion that reportedly was kept ready to occupy at a moment’s notice under Clark’s orders.

Scroll down to watch a TV Santa Barbara video about the Huguette Clark estate, and click here for a video tour of Bellosguardo from Christie’s.

NBC News reporter Bill Dedman explored Clark’s lonely life in his bestselling book, Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune. In 2013, he visited Santa Barbara to talk about her estates, her solitude and her family history.

Former Mayor Sheila Lodge, who has long been interested in the estate, said she’s been inside the mansion twice.

She said once was in the 1990s, when the city was supporting a rock revetment Clark wanted to install to prevent cliff erosion and support the only road large enough for a fire truck.

“If you don’t ask, you don’t get,” Lodge recalled of asking Clark if she could see the mansion. Clark said yes.

She said she visited again more recently, and the estate manager, John Douglas, told her there was $12 million of deferred maintenance for the property.

The building is a city landmark so the house must be maintained as it is on the exterior, Lodge noted.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated William Clark represented Idaho in the U.S. Senate. 

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

(TV Santa Barbara video)

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