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Mountain News: Aspen expects 5-15% decline

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ASPEN, Colo. – The Aspen Skiing Co. is expecting business volume to drop 5 to 15 per cent at its four ski areas this winter, but it is hiring just as many people — 3,500 at peak season — as usual.

David Perry, the company’s senior vice president, mountain division, said the circumstances are unprecedented. “It’s really difficult to look historically at the business ups and downs and say, “Oh, it’s just like ’91 or it’s just like after September 11. It’s not. This is different. It’s global, it’s deep, and there’s still big turmoil.”

But with employees easier to find, and housing for them also easier to come by, the company believes it should put its best service foot forward. “We have our opportunity to shine,” said Perry.

 

Felon’s name on arts centre

AVON, Colo. – Alberto Vilar is now officially a crook. A federal jury in New York City last week convicted Vilar of bilking clients of Ameritrade Mutual Funds, the firm he co-founded in 1979, of millions of dollars.

Although Vilar is likely to appeal, he is a convicted felon, which presents a ticklish dilemma for cultural arts leaders at Beaver Creek, where the exquisite 530-seat Vilar Performing Arts Center bears his name. Will the name remain, reflecting his $7 million donation?

Vilar gave that money in the 1990s, when he was still riding high on his prescient investments in Cisco, Microsoft and other high-tech stocks. His worth was once estimated at $950 million.

In turn, Vilar was lavish in donations, not only at Beaver Creek, where he owned several homes, but at performing venues in London, Salzburg, Washington D.C., St. Petersburg and yet other cities. Vilar also gave $2 million for renovation of the Ford Amphitheater, located in Vail.

At one point, he was estimated to have given at least $100 million and pledged another $150 million. In particular, he was fond of opera.

But after the tech market tumbled, Vilar’s financial world collapsed. He failed to make good on various pledges, and in turn cultural arts centres in New York City, London, and Salzburg removed his name from concert halls, programs, and other prominent positions.

He was found guilty of three counts of securities fraud, but acquitted of nine counts. News accounts zeroed in on promises made by Vilar and his partner and co-defendant, Gary Alan Tanaka, to an investor who gave $5 million after being assured of its safety.

"It's very sad," said Harry Frampton, chairman of the Vail Valley Foundation, a key sponsoring non-profit for cultural areas at Vail and Beaver Creek.

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