Thursday, April 24, 2008

Bank gives The Mount a reprieve

From the Berkshire Eagle:

Bank gives The Mount a reprieve
Ellen G. Lahr, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Article Last Updated: 04/24/2008 09:12:12 AM EDT

Thursday, April 24
LENOX — Berkshire Bank has extended until May 31 a $3 million fundraising deadline for Edith Wharton Restoration Inc., and The Mount will open May 9 for the season while the nonprofit seeks to restructure its debt with key creditors, according to an announcement last night.

Berkshire Bank, which is now owed nearly $4.4 million in mortgage and line-of-credit debt, had given The Mount until today, to meet its goal, with the threat of foreclosure looming for the nonprofit historic house site.

This is the second extension granted by the bank.

Susan Wissler, The Mount's acting CEO and president, said last night that May will be a month of heavy negotiations to restructure long-term debt with key creditors, including Berkshire Bank. The Mount owes a total of nearly $9 million to creditors, with secured and unsecured loans to the organization.

"Opening sends a strong message to the public that we do not intend to go down without a fight," Wissler said. "It also generates much needed additional revenues to help stave off our creditors. With all of the recent publicity, we are anticipating a very robust season."

Wissler said the extension is exciting
news, along with the donation tally showing that, in the past 30 days, the "Save the Mount" campaign has raised $240,000, reflecting 600 contributions from around the country. A total of 1,300 individuals have pledged since February, when the nonprofit announced that it was out of cash and missed a $300,000 payment to the bank.

The recent gifts include more than $100,000 from donors whose funds are immediately available to permit The Mount to ready itself for the 2008 season. Among the donors: former Walt Disney Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael Eisner and his wife, Jane, who gave $25,000, according to Wissler.

The Eisners gave after learning of the financial crisis by a recent New York Times opinion piece urging New Yorkers to help save The Mount, as Edith Wharton was a New Yorker herself.

"Mr. Eisner is passionate about Wharton's writings, and we are delighted that the Eisners have lent their support to our cause," said Wissler, who said she was contacted by the Eisner Foundation earlier this month.

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