Donald Gordon donates £ 20 Million pounds† to Royal Opera and Wales Millennium Centre.

The Royal Opera House and Wales Millennium Centre announce today that they will jointly receive a donation of £20 million payable over five years from the leading London based South African businessman Donald Gordon.† This is believed to be the largest single private donation ever made to the arts in the UK, and establishes a partnership between the two flagship organisations.†

The donation will be shared equally between Wales Millennium Centre, the new international venue for performing arts that will open on Cardiff Bay waterfront in November 2004, and London's world famous Royal Opera House and is set to act as a catalyst to developing joint artistic projects. Some of the funds will be allocated from the Donald Gordon Foundation, in order to stimulate further links with South African artists and performing companies.

Donald Gordon, a dual UK and South African National, explained his reasons:

"The Performing Arts have played an important part in my life over the four years since I became resident in the UK. This donation is made ahead of my retirement as Chairman of Liberty International, and heralds the beginning of a fascinating new activity that will become an important and enjoyable focus of my life in retirement.

I have been impressed by the continuing success of the Royal Opera House since its redevelopment and in particular in how it has broadened the range of work on offer to audiences, and how eagerly audiences have responded. Covent Garden is a shining example of why centres of artistic excellence should be developed and supported by both public and private contributions.†

Likewise I am struck by the ambition, boldness, and creativity of the Wales Millennium Centre and how it will offer audiences access to excellence and provide wide ranging opportunities for artists from across the globe.†

It makes perfect sense for me to enjoy the pleasures of giving in a tax efficient manner while I am still fit enough to participate actively and enjoy the process, and I hope that my gift will stimulate and encourage other donors in the UK to honour and support the Nation's major institutions of culture, arts, sport and charity in general in a sensible and effective manner.

It gives me considerable pleasure to give back some of the rewards of my business success to the nations that made it possible by supporting two of the world’s leading performing arts venues”.

Sir David Rowe-Beddoe, Chairman of Wales Millennium Centre and long standing personal friend of Mr Gordon commented "This most generous of gifts is not only a commitment to his vision of catalysing creative links between Wales Millennium Centre and the Royal Opera House, but it must be seen as an outstanding example of cultural philanthropy which I know he fervently hopes will lead the way to our finalizing the remaining project capital and stimulate further ongoing support from individuals and businesses for the world class programme that we will present following our opening in November 2004”.

Tony Hall, Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House said:† “I am thrilled to be able to announce this generous gift.† Thrilled because not only does this provide us with vital funds to put towards staging new productions of operas and ballets, the lifeblood of the Royal Opera House, but it also forges exciting links with the new Wales Millennium Centre, and further develops our relationship with South Africa.†† It was through an earlier donation from Donald Gordon in 2000 that we were able to establish Creative Voices, a highly successful integrated arts outreach undertaking in Gauteng, South Africa.† This new donation will expand this important part of our work.”

The Wales Millennium Centre

Wales Millennium Centre is the most exciting cultural initiative happening in Europe today. This Centre currently nearing completion on Cardiff Bay waterfront will not only be an international receiving house for opera, ballet, dance and musicals, it will also house under one roof seven diverse and exciting cultural organisations.

When the Centre opens on 26 November 2004, it will quickly establish itself as one of the world’s leading performing arts and destination venues.

£6 million of the £10 million donation by Donald Gordon to Wales Millennium Centre will be applied towards the cost of the capital building project. The balance will be used to ensure excellence of programming and accessibility to the Centre’s activities by supporting affordable ticket pricing.

The Centre has a further £4 million to raise to complete its pre-opening funding package.

The ROH

The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden is one of the world's great lyric theatres.  Home to three international companies - The Royal Ballet, The Royal Opera and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House - it is a centre of international excellence, a focal point of European and domestic artistic life, a place where past, present and future collide and mingle.  The Royal Opera House aims to attract, excite, uplift and inspire the widest possible audiences by performing opera and ballet to the highest international standards at affordable prices, to develop the art forms and to promote their appreciation by people of all ages and backgrounds. 

Royal Opera House and Wales Millennium Centre partnership

The Royal Opera House and Wales Millennium Centre are both committed to presenting outstanding performing arts to the widest possible audience, and as such, are delighted to be developing creative and commercial partnerships between the two organisations.  An immediate outcome of this partnership will be a season by The Royal Ballet at the Wales Millennium Centre in 2006. 

The partnership will also encourage the development of new work and support emerging artists from both Wales and England .  With a focus on the Royal Opera House’s newest department, ROH2, the partnership will allow sharing and co-commissioning of work between the two venues as well as research and development opportunities, particularly using new technologies.

The Wales Millennium Centre is establishing strategic partnerships with major performing arts centres around the world in order to ensure an outstanding programme in the Centre once it opens in November 2004.  The Royal Opera House will be the first major relationship to be established.

The Royal Opera House already enjoys creative connections with Wales , including a symbiotic relationship with its first Associate Company, Music Theatre Wales, who perform regularly in the Linbury Studio Theatre at Covent Garden. This year, the two organisations mounted a joint revival of Lynne Plowman’s opera, Gwyneth and the Green Knight, and future plans include a co-commission from Nigel Osborne as well as a co-production of Michael Tippett’s The Knot Garden.



 

 


Background factors involving the £20 million donations to the Royal Opera House and the
Wales Millennium Centre by the Donald Gordon family interests

The Performing Arts have played an important part in my life over the four years since I became resident in the UK as full time Chairman of Liberty International which I founded in 1980, on my fiftieth birthday. The company is now a FTSE 100 company with a major presence in the UK shopping centre industry.

The £20 million donations I am making, over the next five years, to the Royal Opera House and the Wales Millennium Centre to be equally shared between them (i.e. £10 million each) are made ahead of my retirement as Chairman of Liberty International.† This will launch me into a fascinating activity which could be an important focus of my life in retirement.

The project also enables me to act as a catalyst to achieve substantial economic benefits and savings for both the Royal Opera House and the Wales Millennium Centre, which is due to open in November 2004, given their strategic geographic location and their similar size and facilities.

At the same time with their co-operation I would like to play a role, through the Donald Gordon Foundation, in the revitalisation of opera and ballet in South Africa where these art forms have been decimated over recent decades.† This will also provide opportunities for gifted South African artists to be trained in the best traditions of their arts, and to perform both locally and in the United Kingdom.

The link with my South African charitable organisation, the Donald Gordon Foundation, created in 1971, which has inter alia made over the past four years substantial donations in particular to advance the uplifting of business, education and to create state of the art medical facilities in South Africa.† These initiatives include R110 million donated last year to facilitate the Witwatersrand University to establish a new teaching hospital (The Donald Gordon Medical Centre) to be modelled on the Mayo Clinic in the USA.

A further R30 million has been pledged to Pretoria University to create a business school (The Gordon Institute of Business Science), which in its short life has become one of the premier business schools in South Africa.† Other significant donations include an average of R40 million (£4 million) per annum to a variety of worthy causes across the South African charitable spectrum. This involves over 200 separate charitable organisations with a major bias in favour of old age, education and medical facilities.

The Donald Gordon Foundation has substantial uncommitted funds to be utilised mainly in furthering charitable objectives in South Africa and will now play an additional role in the development of high level cultural activities, notably opera and ballet in South Africa, in association with the Royal Opera House and the Wales Millennium Centre.

I intend these donations to be a celebration of my achieving dual citizenship of both South Africa and the United Kingdom in September 2003.

My objective is to use my investment base to its maximum economic potential during the course of the rest of my life rather than the much diminished amount which would be left after payment of estate duties and other taxes, following my demise.† This will also allow me to enjoy the pleasures of giving in a tax efficient manner while I am still fit enough to participate actively and enjoy the process.

Liberty International is involved in a large scale development of the St David’s Shopping Centre in Cardiff in partnership with Land Securities and my support of the Wales Millennium Centre is also a gesture towards the high expectation of the future success of this exciting venture.

In addition, I hope to recapture the great historic relationship between England, Wales and South Africa and particularly the Welsh in the late 19th century going back to the days of Rorke’s Drift and Isandlwana.

Hopefully the proposed donations will stimulate and encourage other donors in the UK to honour and support the Nation’s major institutions of culture, art, sport and charity in general in a sensible and effective manner.

Following my 42 year Chairmanship of Liberty Life in South Africa (from which I retired in June 1999), I have been fortunate enough to have been successful in my business ventures over the past four years in Britain and over a lengthy period dating back to 1962 when I was joint founder of the Abbey Life Insurance Company with Sir Mark Weinberg.†

More significantly Liberty International’s major venture in the UK has involved expenditure of some £5 billion in the development of the British shopping centre industry, where our completed facilities attract around 200 million shopping visits per annum, representing about 30% of the British population.†

All in all since 1958 I have now completed nearly 47 momentous years first as Chairman of both Liberty Life Association in South Africa until 1999 and in the last two decades as Chairman of Liberty International in the United Kingdom including the last four years on a full time basis.† Both ventures have been extremely successful and fulfilling.†

Thus it will be of considerable pleasure for me to give back some of the rewards of that success to the nations that made it possible.

Donald Gordon, November 2003