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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 November, 2003, 14:00 GMT
20m boost for arts centres
Donald Gordon
Donald Gordon says he will not be expecting free seats despite giving 20m
A London-based businessman has been talking about his donation of 20m to the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff and the Royal Opera House in London.

The money, which will establish a partnership between the two flagship organisations, is coming from South African Donald Gordon over five years.

It is one of the largest single private donations ever made to the performing arts in the UK, and could herald hands-on involvement from the multi-millionaire in arts projects around Britain.

The money will be divided equally between the two and will help meet the building costs of the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay.

The 104m arts centre, which is due to open in 2004, will use 6m towards its construction, reducing the shortfall it needs from private funding to 2.7m.

Wales Millennium Centre
The Wales Millennium Centre will open in November 2004
The Chief Executive of the Wales Millennium Centre Judith Isherwood says the rest of the money would be used to help keep down ticket prices and ensure excellence in programming.

The source of the money is a man ranked 51st in the Sunday Times's Rich List, which estimated his fortune at more than half a billion pounds.

This donation heralds the beginning of a fascinating new activity that will become an important and enjoyable focus of my life in retirement
Donald Gordon

Mr Gordon is a retail tycoon, whose main operation in the UK is Liberty International PLC, owner of some of Britain's biggest out-of-town shopping centres.

He was also involved in developing St David's shopping centre in Cardiff, and has a long-standing friendship with Wales Millennium Centre Chairman Sir David Rowe-Beddoe.

The arts, he said, had been a key part of his life since moving to the UK four years ago.

"This donation is made ahead of my retirement... and heralds the beginning of a fascinating new activity that will become an important and enjoyable focus of my life in retirement," he said.

Mr Gordon is South African, but based in London. Two months ago he gained dual citizenship between South Africa and the UK.

"I decided to celebrate with a donation to the opera and ballet world," he said.

Mr Gordon revealed that his fascination with Wales had been inspired by the role of Welshmen in South African battles - most famously portrayed in the 1964 film Zulu.

He also said he expected to pay for his theatre seats- despite his donation.

The Wales Millennium Centre is expected to hold international musicals, operas, ballet and dance as well as becoming a home to the Welsh National Opera.

Internationally-renowned opera star Bryn Terfel will lead a glittering line-up of stars at the opening next year.

Stars including Charlotte Church, Matthew Rhys and Ruthie Henshall will also appear to launch the venue.

The Welsh assembly is investing 37m of public money in the centre, with 31m coming from the Millennium Commission, 10m from the Arts Council for Wales and 6m from the Welsh Development Agency.

Welsh Secretary Peter Hain welcomed the donation.

"It is a brilliant boost for what is an awesomely-impressive centre," he said.

Terfel lays foundation stone
21 Jan 03 |  Wales
Arts boost for Opera House
25 Mar 03 |  Arts
Terfel's road to opera glory
31 Dec 02 |  Wales

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