Lincoln Center buys back naming rights from donor, will flip them for more cash

Many gifts for academic or cultural buildings include contracts with “naming rights” in return for the donation. These are usually carefully negotiated – universities will offer bigger letters for more money and so on. Presumably the contracts for the Matthew Knight Arena, for example, include many such details.

Non-profits occasionally get sued for things like failing to use big enough letters to spell out the name, as in this hilarious report on two bitter donors to the Central Park Children’s Zoo. UO has also had at least one naming right dispute. We gave a financier named Jeff Grayson the naming rights for what is now McKenzie Hall, I think in return for $4M. Grayson was later convicted of fraud, and UO gave the money back to his victims (after some opposition by Dave Frohnmayer), and then literally pried his name off the building. I know a professor who keeps one of the suitably large brass letters in his office.

But this one seems to be unprecedented. New York City’s Lincoln Center has bought the naming rights to Avery Fisher Hall back from the Fisher family (used to be a big name in stereo gear), for $15M in cash and certain other valuable considerations. Fisher got the naming rights in 1973, for a $10.5M donation. The Lincoln Center trustees believe that they can flip the naming rights to a new donor, for enough money to finance a gut renovation of the hall. The new contract will apparently include a now standard 50 year expiration clause. The NYT has the story.

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