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Dalai Lama organizers pay off debt

May 10, 2009

Bronfman sisters honored contract even though earlier event had been scratched
Times Union
May 9, 2009

ALBANY -- Organizers have made good on a $20,000
debt owed the Times Union Center after canceling
the Dalai Lama's appearance there last month, an arena official said.

Under terms of a contract signed by the center
and Clare Bronfman, a co-founder of the World
Ethical Foundations Consortium, which sponsored
the spiritual leader, advance payments of $20,000
went toward rent of the facility and other
expenses, Times Union Center General Manager Bob Belber said this week.

"It was not the total cost, but advance payments
... and those are non-refundable deposits,"
Belber said. "Because, if inside a 10-day window
there's a cancellation, the building can't use that date."

The Dalai Lama was to appear at the 17,500-seat
center on April 19. Ticket sales lagged, and the
sponsors canceled the event April 6 amid negative
publicity connected to the organization.

As it turned out, "a concert promoter had asked
about that date" and was told it was booked and
the arena had a signed license agreement, Belber said.

The Dalai Lama, the spiritual and secular leader
of Tibet, appeared Wednesday at the Palace
Theatre, a smaller venue of about 3,000 seats.
Clare and Sara Bronfman, Seagram's liquor
heiresses, worked to re-schedule the spiritual
leader's visit to Albany after the failed Times Union event.

In response to a question submitted by a member
of the audience Wednesday, the Dalai Lama said
his people investigated the allegations made
against the World Ethical Foundations Consortium
and its link to NXIVM, a locally based
organization that conducts person-growth training
courses, and found it to be an ethical group.
And, he said, he supports organizations that promote ethics.

At the end of his talk, Clare Bronfman announced
to the audience that revenues for the event
totaled $140,821 and costs were $283,570, so the consortium was out $142,749.

More than once, Bronfman apologized to the Dalai
Lama, saying it wasn't good news, "in that I
don't have any money to send home," referring to
donations to the Dalai Lama's causes. "I
apologize we have no gifts in that way," she said.

Palace marketing manager Sean Allen said Friday
several of those in attendance asked on their way
out about the public financial accounting.

Tenzin Dickyi, a special assistant to the
representative of the Dalai Lama in the New
York-based Office of Tibet, said a financial
accounting of event revenues and costs
customarily is announced at the conclusion of the
Dalai Lama's speaking appearances. The Dalai Lama
requests this, she said, for transparency.

"Events are not held to make money or profit, and
usually the accounts balance," she said.
"Sometimes, the outgoing expenses are greater than the money that comes in."

Clare Bronfman told the audience she and her
sister would make up the deficit. The Dalai Lama
downplayed the talk of finances, saying he didn't want money for public talks.

Allen said 2,391 tickets were sold at the Palace.
Ticket prices were $55 and $85. Between 550 and
600 were $55 seats, Allen said. If the figure for
$55 seats is put at 575, revenues would have been
about $186,000, including the $85 tickets.

Peter Lesser, executive director of The Egg, said
213 tickets were sold at $18 each for the
simulcast of the talk. Sixteen guests of the
Bronfmans attended, for which there was no
charge. At $18 a head, revenue from tickets at The Egg would come to $3,834.

Total ticket sale revenues, including tickets
sold at The Egg, would have come to about
$190,000. That doesn't include Palace tickets the
Bronfmans bought for guests, which could account for the discrepancy.

The organizers were also responsible for overtime
costs of Albany police officers assigned to a
security detail inside and outside the Palace.
Police spokesman Detective James Miller said
overtime for three uniformed officers and four detectives came to $1,500.

The cost to rent the Palace for a typical event
is $3,500, according to general manager Chris
Gould. He declined to say how much it cost the
Dalai Lama organizers to rent the Palace.

The $20,000 advance for the much larger Times
Union Center was an estimate of a total cost of
$75,000 for the organizers had the event taken
place there. That included the lease of the
19-year-old building, stagehand labor, box office
workers, setting up chairs on the floor, and
lights and audio, Belber said. Remaining expenses
would have been covered by ticket sales, which ran from $52 to $112.

The arena would have realized a profit and as
would have the sponsoring organization, Belber
said. As it turned out, the center netted a small
profit from the up-front money, "slightly more than $5,000," he said.

That advance money covered expenses related to a
news conference in front of the Times Union
Center on South Pearl Street announcing the
event, as well as the cost related to the
refunding of tickets. "The time working on a
canceled event is time charged to that event," Belber said.

Bronfman, on behalf of the organization, paid
$5,000 up front and the remaining $15,000 after
the cancellation, he said. "They honored the
commitment," Belber said. "They were required to
pay the $15,000 and they did pay it. I have a lot
of respect for them in honoring the contract terms."

Carol DeMare can be reached at 454-5431 or by
e-mail at
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