Although the transfer of copper heiress Huguette Clark's Bellosguardo estate in Santa Barbara, California, to a nonprofit organization appears to be complete, the final status of the estate remains shrouded in secrecy, the Santa Barbara Independent reports.
The twenty-three-acre estate is managed by the Santa Barbara-based Bellosguardo Foundation, which was created in 2014 as part of the settlement of Clark's will after the reclusive heiress died in 2011 at the age of 104. In 2015, however, the foundation, whose primary mission is to "open the Bellosguardo house and gardens to the public as a center that will foster and promote the arts," was faced with the possibility of having to sell the mansion to pay between $16 million and $18 million in penalties on gift taxes that Clark owed the Internal Revenue Service at the time of her death. According to the Independent, a "Petition for Final Distribution" filed in November and approved by Santa Barbara judge Colleen Sterne before a December 14 hearing date suggests that those penalties have been waived and "that all $45 million of Bellosguardo assets, which include the mansion itself, a large collection of paintings and sculptures, a $1.7 million doll collection, and $4.5 million in cash, be transferred [from the New York County Public Administrator's Office] to the foundation."
But the Independent has not been able to obtain final confirmation of the transfer, neither attorney representing the New York Public Administrator responded to the website's requests for comment, and the foundation's board members referred questions to executive director Jeremy Lindaman, who also declined to comment. "This is a complicated issue with a lot of moving parts," said Lindaman. "I've been asked to refer questions regarding the petition to the New York Public Administrator."
Nor are the foundation's plans for converting the estate — which has stood vacant since the 1950s — into a public space for the arts clear. In the three years since its creation, the foundation has not publicly released a budget or described any operational strategies. The hand-off of the estate to the foundation further stipulates that the seven employees employed by the estate be terminated, and a letter from the longtime resident manager, one of those employees, asking the board to intervene before the petition was finalized, was still unanswered as of early December.
Some of the foundation's board members — two of whom were appointed by Santa Barbara mayor Helene Schneider, for whom Lindaman has served as a political consultant — have expressed concerns about the foundation and Lindaman's role. Board member James Hurley, who had been Huguette Clark's personal attorney, said in an October 2017 Noozhawk article that he was unaware of any progress in the transfer petition and the board had meet only three times in over three years.