The collapse of Enron Corp., the Houston-based energy trading firm, has rocked the energy industry and the business world and may also hurt the museums and charities that benefited from the philanthropic support of the company and its shareholders, the Los Angeles Times and New York Times report.
Enron, which now admits overstating earnings on its financial reports by nearly $600 million over the past four years, recently filed for bankruptcy protection and laid off 4,000 employees, driving the company's stock — a source of funding for many nonprofits and philanthropic endeavors — from a high of nearly $85 per share earlier this year to less than a dollar. Enron CEO Kenneth Lay exemplified the company's philanthropy, endowing several professorships at the University of Houston and Rice University, while the company itself was known for its generous gifts to arts groups, scholarship funds, and the Texas Medical Center.
"Their philanthropy will certainly be missed," said Toby Mattox, executive director of Houston's Society for the Performing Arts, which received $25,000 a year from Enron and used the company's offices for a time after its own were damaged by floods last year.
New York City nonprofits institutions were among those that benefited from the wealth the company helped generate. For example, longtime New York philanthropists Robert and Renee Belfer, who at one time owned Enron stock valued at some $2 billion, gave generously to a variety of New York City cultural and educational institutions, including an estimated $6 million to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the Robert and Ren�e Belfer Court for early Greek art as well as sizable amounts to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Yeshiva University. But Belfer, an Enron director, refused to sell his holdings in the company as the stock began to slide in October, and many now fear that the subsequent hit to his portfolio will force the Belfers' to curtail their philanthropic activities.