|Sanford I. Weill accepting Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award.|
Sanford I. Weill has amassed a fortune by buying a small business and through a series of acquisitions turned it into the world’s largest company.
The former CEO and chairman of Citigroup has been praised and vilified as the person most responsible for the “shattering” of the Glass–Steagall Act (which separated banking and insurance businesses and limited the investing risk banks could take), creating the modern financial services industry.
On Monday, Weill was being honored not because of his business success but because of his longtime philanthropy. Among the organizations that have benefited from his and wife’s Joan’s financial and personal commitment are the Academy of Finance, a joint program with the New York City Board of Education that trains high school students for careers in financial services, and Carnegie Hall, where he serves as board chairman.
The 80-year-old businessman and philanthropist received the Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award during an intimate lunch at Per Se New York. In a soft voice, he explained why it is up to those who have had success in business to take a leadership role in supporting arts and education.
“As we think about the world we live in most of the governments that we know of, certainly in the developing world, don’t have much money,” he said. “What we really count on for education, culture or art, and healthcare is really not the place we can look at anymore. We’re going to have to think about how we create more public-private partnerships.”
Even though Weill has given hundreds of millions of dollars to various causes, he said it takes more than money to make a good philanthropist.
“Philanthropy is not just about giving money because people can give money to just solve their conscience but it’s also about having passion for something, giving your intelligence. What makes you successful in the private sector is also going to make you successful in the public sector. People shouldn’t say I’m busy, the company’s growing. I don’t have the time to do this.”
He added, “It really is better to give than to receive and when you give, you receive so much more.”
Weill was presented with a 15,000 euro cash award and a “Patron of Art Edition 2013 Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan” writing instrument (one of 12), commemorating the life and influence of Sforza, one of the most prominent patrons of the Italian Renaissance and a great supporter of Leonardo Da Vinci.
|Gold Patron of Art Edition 2013 Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan Limited Edition 888.|
The public will have the opportunity of purchasing two editions of this writing instrument: a gold model limited to 888 units and a silver model limited to 4,810 units.
|Silver Patron of Art Edition 2013 |
Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan
Limited Edition 4810.
The gold model is offset with a blue lacquered cap and barrel. The silver edition is in black lacquer.
Prior to the luncheon ceremony, Lutz Bethge, vice chairman of the Montblanc Cultural Foundation, explained that the patron of the arts awards, in its 22nd year, honors historical and modern persons who have a long history of giving their time and talents to supporting the arts and art projects. Each year an historical figure is chosen as the inspiration behind a limited-edition writing instrument. Then a modern-day patron of the arts chosen each year in 12 countries is presented with that pen, cash awards and the recognition that will hopefully inspire others to do the same. To bring the program to a larger audience, the brand made the same writing instrument available for sale in limited editions. In fact, Bethge said the popularity of this program spawned Montblanc’s highly-successful limited-edition business.
“It was almost by chance and it is because of this award,” he said inside Montblanc’s new boutique at 600 Madison Ave.
While the award has been given to a broad group of people, Bethge and Jan-Patrick Schmitz, Montblanc North America CEO and president, did say that it is unusual to present such an award to someone from the financial services industry. However, Weill’s financial and personal contributions are part of a long history of patronage to the arts from royalty to today’s business leaders.
“(In choosing Weill) we wanted to tell the story that the arts need patronage to flourish,” Bethge said. “This is a patronage award for arts and culture.”
In addition, Weill’s commitment to education (as well as arts) is in line with the cultural commitment of Montblanc as a company that sells writing instruments, one of the most basic tools used for human communication.
“Our mark is on the writing culture,” Bethge said. “It is the most important thing of mankind.”
Bethge and Schmitz explained in great detail that in each country there are juries that select nominees and then all of the juries together select the winner in each country. However, there is also a personal connection between the man and the brand: Lang Lang.
|Lang Lang performs for Sanford Weill.|
The 31-year-old concert pianist is the chairman of the Montblanc Cultural Foundation. He has also known Weill since he was 17 years old and considers him a mentor as well as friend. Weill serves as director of the Lang Lang International Music Foundation.
The affection between the two was obvious throughout the event. Lang Lang gave him a big bear hug, something that Weill says he has been the recipient of throughout their 14-year relationship. He played three short compositions in Weill’s honor.
“Without you it would be a very different world,” Lang Lang said. “You really make our world better and because of you we have the confidence to shape our own world.”
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