Anticipation followed the announcement of the Bellosguardo Foundation board of directors, the 19 men and women who will decide what to do with the grand Santa Barbara estate that is heiress Huguette Clark’s West Coast legacy.
The arts foundation was formed as part of the settlement agreement for Clark’s will. Clark, who died in 2011 at age 104, was the daughter of Sen. William Clark and heiress to a large fortune. She lived as a recluse in a New York Hospital for the last decades of her life.
Clark’s Bellosguardo estate, at 1407 Cabrillo Blvd. on Santa Barbara’s beachfront, is expected to become a museum open to the public, managed by the foundation.
No news has come out since the board was formed, but the members have brought on Jeremy Lindaman — Mayor Helene Schneider’s longtime political consultant — as executive director/president to help with transferring the property and assets to the foundation.
“Once the property is transferred the board will likely begin a national recruitment campaign for the position. My task of now is to assist in the transfer of the property from the estate to the foundation,” Lindaman said.
“As you know, my role with Bellosguardo was to nominate the board members to the New York public administrator, which was completed last summer,” Mayor Helene Schneider said in an email, adding that she isn’t involved in the board’s staffing decisions or policy decisions. “My understanding is that the board is still awaiting word from the public administrator on whether the IRS will waive the tax penalties. The board is also talking about potential partnerships with other arts institutions.”
The 19-member board was nominated by Schneider and approved by the New York attorney general’s office. The board has met informally, according to board member Joan Rutkowski. She referred questions about the estate’s status to Lindaman.
“He’s not on the board, he is a, I guess a staff person,” she said. “I don’t know if he’s paid.”
Lindaman was brought on by Schneider to help out giving tours to people last year and the board asked him to stay on during the transition since he knew “the players in New York,” he said.
“At that time the mayor announced that the Bellosguardo property will continue to be operated by the executors of the estate,” board member Ron Pulice said in an email. “I believe that in the meantime Jeremy is being ask to help in that transition. He most likely will have a more permanent role in the future.”
The New York state public administrator’s office is overseeing the estate settlement go through probate court. After that, any remaining assets — which is expected to include the Bellosguardo property and Clark’s extensive doll collection — will be transferred to the foundation.
One big question left is whether the IRS will waive millions of dollars in gift tax penalties. Clark is estimated to have owed $16 million to $18 million in gift taxes at the time of her death, and it’s possible that the Santa Barbara property would have to be sold to cover costs of the settlement, Empty Mansions author Bill Dedman has reported.
“They could sell the property without the board, so it’s their asset, and their only responsibility is to transfer what’s left over — which people assume will be the house — to the foundation,” Lindaman said.
There has been talk of partnerships with other art institutions and a coming announcement, but Lindaman said everything waits on a decision from the IRS.
“Unfortunately if the penalties are not waived, there’s going to have to be some decisions made because there’s going to be an additional challenge the board faces.”
It’s also unclear how much work would have to be done on the estate to bring it into Americans with Disabilities Act compliance and other guidelines, since no engineers or architects have inspected the property, Lindaman said.
People expected something to happen after the board was announced and many organizations have requested tours or access for events, he said.
There were tours for board members and a few members of the Santa Barbara Independent staff but all other requests since then have been denied, he said.
Board chair Dick Wolf couldn’t be reached for comment.
Locals first got involved in the Clark estate settlement in 2012, when former mayor Sheila Lodge and other community leaders announced they were forming a Friends of Bellosguardo group. With legal representation, the group tried to be included in the settlement talks and raised public awareness about the estate and opportunity for the Santa Barbara community.
The goal of the group was to try to get some public awareness and publicity locally, Lodge said. She hasn’t’ been involved since the board was formed, of which she’s not a member, and is working to transfer the Friends of Bellosguardo website to the foundation, she said.