Sunday, 28 June 2020

A message from the founders of Rancourt & Co.







These are unprecedented times and the economic downturn created by the pandemic has negatively impacted our business in many ways. In response, we have come up with a rare opportunity for our customers. Our best sellers are available at wholesale pricing through a crowdfunding model. We will collect orders until we reach the order threshold of approximately 150 pairs per style, then make your shoes in batches of 300. At this volume we can keep all of our valuable shoemakers employed and avoid devastating lay-offs which hurts the shoemaking heritage in our community. We are grateful for your support and hope you’ll use this opportunity to help our small family business continue it’s 52 year tradition while acquiring a pair of handmade shoes worth waiting for. Shoes ordered here will ship in approximately 8-12 weeks if the order goal is met. If this timeline does not work for you, you can order from our regular categories at full price for the earliest delivery.

                   


                                 

An Interview with Rancourt & Co.

We sat down with Rancourt & Co. owner Kyle Rancourt to get his thoughts on his first boots, his favorite thing about Maine, and more
 
 Kyle Rancourt

March 16, 2020
Will Porter

If you know us, you know we are a bit obsessed with Maine, with good reason. We have a bunch of Mainers on staff here at Huckberry who seem to always look back with admiration, whether it is the amazing scenery, an unexpected surf community, or the haunting sites of a Stephen King novel. One of our favorite Maine mainstays is Rancourt & Co., makers of some of the best sneakers and boots you can find, all handcrafted and built for the long haul. A few years back, we got a behind-the-scenes look at their operation in Maine and we are back with an interview with the founder, Kyle Rancourt, in honor of our new exclusive, the Acadia Chukka.

What was your first pair of boots?

My first pair of boots I can remember were these beautiful Chelsea Boots made by an Italian shoemaker. They were hand-finished and burnished much like we do with our mimosa calf dress shoes. At the time, my dad was in charge of product development and design at Allen-Edmonds and he designed these boots for them. My first pair of boots at Rancourt & Co. was a boat-boot. At the time (circa 2010) American heritage style was all the rage and boat boots became a thing. I think they were navy suede with a white deck sole. A bit regrettable style-wise but hindsight is 20/20.

What shoes are you wearing right now?

The Bennett Trainer in Gray.

Where do you draw your inspiration from when designing new products?

So many places. A big part of it is utilitarian—comfort, versatility, classic styling. I also design footwear based on materials that inspire me. I'll find an outsole or an upper leather that I love then design footwear that works with those materials. Lastly, I do look around a bit at what some other industry leaders/brands I admire are doing and also take into consideration what our customers want or are asking for.

Rancourt's designs have really started to evolve and grow over the last few years. Can you tell us about how you maintain and balance classic style but continue to innovate with new, more modern styles like the Carson sneaker and Bennett trainer?

Yeah, I think that's true. It's definitely been an intentional shift as I don't believe we can grow and thrive in the long term but sticking just to the classics. However, I come at product development always from the classic or traditional perspective. The Carson and Bennett sneakers certainly aren't unique to us but our twist on them is what elevates them and makes them different. I've always loved the Vans Authentic so I said "How can we make this better and a "Rancourt" shoe?" We use Horween leather, Vibram soles and put a molded foam footbed in it so it's even more comfortable. The Bennett is another example - we took a really traditional runner silhouette and used high-quality leather for the uppers then put Lactae Hevea soles on the bottom. There are very few shoemakers using LH soles so that alone sets us apart while retaining the Rancourt DNA. I also really try not to over-design things. I like minimal design and a small color palette because our signature shoes are so traditional and simple I think everything else we do has to fit that mold as well.

Tell us about the unique style of the Acadia chukka - where does it take inspiration from?

The Acadia Chukka comes from an old pattern we had in our archives that I️ changed up a little bit. Since you can’t get crepe soles made in America anymore I️ sourced the “caliber” sole from one of our American sole manufacturers. It’s mean to replicate the classic crepe wedge-style sole. I️ think it’s really versatile - it can be worn year round and while it’s tough and durable it doesn’t need much breaking in. It’ll be super comfortable right out of the box.

White sneakers - dirty or clean?

Clean. One of the benefits of owning a shoe company is when my white sneakers get dirty I can just take a new pair.

We know our Rancourt's are going to last for the long run. But any boot care tips to help?

Two things that are super easy - get a good horsehair brush and brush them regularly, like every time you wear them or if they've been sitting around for a few weeks. It cleans them up gives them a shine if they are made from a "blooming" leather, like chromexcel, while also keeping particles from working their way into the break of the leather and degrading it. The second thing is to use cedar shoe trees in your boots when you're not wearing them. They will help keep the odor down and help retain the shape of the leather over time.

Best thing in Maine that you can't get anywhere else?

The landscape. Maine has the best of everything - big mountains, green forests, and beautiful beaches. In two hours or less, you can be in the backcountry on a mountain with no cell service and two hours in the other direction you can be in Boston or five hours to NYC. Portland, Maine is also a wonderful small city. I wouldn't give it up for anything.


Friday, 26 June 2020

The trampling of Venice shows why tourism must change after Covid-19 / Venice, an Odyssey: Hope and Anger in the Iconic City by Neal E Robbins



The trampling of Venice shows why tourism must change after Covid-19
Neal E Robbins

Coronavirus has given hotspots like the besieged Italian port breathing space – and a vision of a new, greener kind of tourism

‘Venice’s residents want a ban on outsized cruise ships, and improved treatment of the lagoon that is vital to the city’s life.’

Published onFri 19 Jun 2020 15.05 BST

Before Covid-19, the tourist industry was the largest employer by sector on the planet, giving work to one in every 11 people. And when the emergency ends, it will surely resurge – but should it return in the way it was before? Maybe now, finally, is a good time to rethink what tourism should be.

Before the coronavirus outbreak, the number of global tourists was predicted to balloon to 1.8 billion international arrivals a year by 2030. In 1950 that number was at 25 million. That huge increase cuts two ways. Tourism supports jobs, often bringing vital economic sustenance to historic or remote places. But over-tourism has a clear downside for the frailest destinations, like Machu Picchu in Peru, for many historic city centres, like New Orleans or Dubrovnik, and for the location I know best, Venice. There, 30 million annual visitors exert enormous demands on the residents, the heritage and the environment, changing tourism into a corrosive force.

In the years just before the coronavirus outbreak I spent months in the city of canals and culture interviewing Venetians about their lives. Invariably, the first thing they wanted to tell me about was the effects of mass tourism; how, since the 1990s, it has pushed out residents; how streets and squares can become dangerously overcrowded; how it has pushed up housing costs and destroyed local shops that now all cater to sandwich-eating, souvenir-buying tourists and little else; how it allows overweening sightseers to invade weddings, baptisms and funerals at its religious places. The social ties Venice once enjoyed, its rhythm of life, even the vibrant artisanal trades, are now almost a thing of the past.


On top of all that, the millions of tourists coming to Venice put pressure on the environment by generating mountains of refuse, through the heavy use of the vaporetti water ferries and taxis, by over-stressing ancient buildings, and with the moisture in their collective breath on artworks. The hundreds of visits from floating resorts – massive cruise ships each with up to 4,000 passengers – add to air pollution and cause erosion of the area’s sensitive lagoon environment.

The population of Venice, more than 170,000 after the second world war, has dropped steadily to some 52,000 today. Remaining residents still feel fortunate to live in a city of such beauty, many believing their culture survives despite the onslaught, but they also grieve at the losses, lose heart, and move away at a rate of 1,000 a year to homes on the mainland. A Venice without Venetians – without significant numbers of permanent residents – is predicted for as early as 2030.

It is no exaggeration to say that mass tourism – adding to Venice’s existing issues with mismanagement of the environment, corruption, political stasis and now the climate emergency – is bringing the community, the lagoon and a fabulous heritage to within a hair’s breadth of collapse.

Tourism was a fairly benign source of livelihood for Venice until the world itself took a step-change some 30 years ago, when a new economics helped bring on cheap air travel, faster communications and an accelerated globalisation. When management of the city was handed over to the market with few controls, Venice was turned into an asset for stripping. Regional changes to Italian laws in the 1990s unleashed rampant property trading that deepened the effects of mass tourism.

Yet Venetians believe that they can still save Venice, and many are fighting for it and demanding that politicians do more. They want them to manage tourist numbers and pass new laws to govern property sales and rentals and put an end to the Airbnb-led free-for-all that is pushing residents out. They call for a focus on long-term accommodation at sustainable costs and more jobs through economic diversification. They want more environmental measures, especially a ban on outsized cruise ships, and improved treatment of the lagoon that is vital to Venice’s life.

This has come into sharp focus in the months-long Covid-19 breathing space, when the sudden emptying of the city restored a lost tranquility, along with fish, swans and cormorants to canals no longer churned by excessive traffic. Most of all, it ignited the hope that this difficult moment for the world could eventually offer a turning point.

The need in Venice, and in so many other destinations, is for a new tourism, one that also benefits residents – not one organised around speculators, landlords, and traveller’s demands. We visitors must see tourism less as an unquestionable entitlement and more as a part of our responsibility to sustain life on Earth. This must ultimately include limiting tourist numbers.

Tourism after coronavirus requires a new mindset. Maybe we can’t visit places so casually; maybe we will need to sacrifice the freedom to drop in at any time and go anywhere as fast as we can or by whatever means suits us. We need to accept life – and visiting – at a slower pace.

Beyond that we need to end our passivity as tourists and see destinations as people’s homes, not just attractions. We should acquaint ourselves with local conditions and be ready to refrain from travelling if authorities listen only to monied interests and fail to foster local livelihoods and protect the local environment. Greener attitudes will help fragile destinations to live on – and allow masterpieces such as Venice to survive for generations to come.

• Neal E Robbins is the author of Venice, an Odyssey: Hope and Anger in the Iconic City, out in July





An evocative and fascinating portrait of Venice, Italy-the ultimate city where there are stories on every street and in every doorway, nook and cranny.

What is it about Venice? The city empowers creativity, and is a place of art, artisans, and artistry, with a rich cultural and intellectual history. It's also been facing major challenges-including a fragile ecosystem, significant depopulation and political volatility-leading to fears that the city will become an inauthentic museum for tourists.

Neal Robbins examines this Italian city, reflecting on the changes he has seen since he first encountered it in the late 1970s-living with a Venetian family while he was a high school student-to quite recently, when, after nearly 50 years and a career as international journalist, he returned to see how the city has endured and changed.

Drawing on his journalism background, Robbins brings deep research, curiosity, and keen insights to his personal experiences of the city, delivering a multi-dimensional profile of this enchanting place. Taking the reader down the city's streets, into its churches and cafes, and onboard boats traveling through its canals and out into its vital lagoon, Robbins shares the city's history, symbols, politics, and struggles, as well as its sounds, smells, animals, and many of its remarkable denizens. He draws upon exclusive interviews with Venetians from all walks of life-artisans, historians, a bank employee, authors, parents, a psychologist, an oceanographer, a funeral director, a nobleman and a former pop star-to share multiple personal interpretations of Venice as it was, as it is and what it can be.

Readers will come away with a rich understanding and appreciation of Venice's history and culture, the challenges it faces, and what it shows us all about the future.

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Luxury Retailer Paul Stuart Reopens Boutiques in Three Cities / History of Paul Stuart / VIDEO:Ralph Auriemma presents Phineas Cole Sahara Collection





Luxury Retailer Paul Stuart Reopens Boutiques in Three Cities

NEW YORK, June 22, 2020 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ -- Known for its outstanding tailored clothing and sportswear collections for men and women, Paul Stuart is thrilled to announce the reopening of their retail stores in New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago.

Closed since March due to COVID - 19, the stores and everything inside of them have been completely sanitized in preparation for the store's reopening. Paul Stuart, committed to the highest standards of cleanliness and disinfection, will have protective materials available to all customers who visit our pristine stores. While the doors are open, sales personnel will continue to assist shoppers who are not able to visit in person with phone orders, storefront pickup, free shipping, and hand delivery to a customer's address.

Paulette Garafalo, CEO of Paul Stuart says, "We couldn't be happier to make this long-awaited announcement. After closing our stores in March, we are thrilled to finally be welcoming our many customers back with new summer styles for men and women that we are confident will inspire. Paul Stuart has emerged from this crisis with a renewed mission to provide the ultimate in luxury clothing and service to consumers both in person and on our eCommerce website."

For summer, Paul Stuart has everything a well-dressed gentleman needs for his travels from the boardroom to the beach. The customLAB offers extraordinary Made to Measure tailored clothing, shirts & ties in a new presentation boutique on the main floor of the New York store. For women, Paul Stuart is excited to announce the launch of the Paul Stuart Advance collection exclusively in the New York store. New styles include Italian silk skirts and blouses, lightweight wool sweaters, and a new Moto style leather jacket. Men's footwear this season completes the look with elegant suede espadrilles, classic bucks, and traditional loafers.

Paul Stuart is one of the last remaining clothing retailers of its kind and has an important position in the history of American fashion. Over the last 80 years of its existence, the company has survived many difficulties in our nation's history including wars and financial disruptions. As the company looks ahead to the future, they are more confident than ever that with their talented team of designers and their loyal customers, the brand will endure and thrive. Garafalo says, "We look forward once again, to welcoming everyone back to Paul Stuart."

About Paul Stuart:
Headquartered in New York City, Paul Stuart, Inc. was founded by Ralph Ostrove and named for his son Paul Stuart Ostrove. The store has remained in its original location since opening in 1938. The company designs exclusive collections of men's and women's tailored clothing, sportswear, footwear, and accessories.

Additional Paul Stuart locations can be found in Chicago on East Oak Street and in Washington, D.C.'s CityCenter. The company operates additional stores in more than 50 locations throughout Japan. Paul Stuart is privately held by Mitsui & Co., LTD company of Japan.

SOURCE Paul Stuart




Paul Stuart is a men's and women's clothing brand founded in 1938 in New York City by haberdasher Ralph Ostrove, who named the company after his son, Paul Stuart Ostrove. The company has four standalone boutiques in the US, and two in Japan. Since 2012 it has been owned by Mitsui. The Paul Stuart logo is Dink Stover sitting on the Yale fence. Paul Stuart has been described as a blend of “Savile Row, Connecticut living and the concrete canyons of New York.” Its creative director is Ralph Auriemma.

History
The company was helmed by the legendary merchant and CEO Clifford Grodd from 1958 until his death in 2010. The retailer remained a privately-held family business until December 2012, when it was sold to its long-time Japanese partners, Mitsui.

In fall 2007, Paul Stuart launched its Phineas Cole range, which is clothing with a slimmer silhouette. Paulette Garafalo, formerly of Brooks Brothers and Hickey Freeman, became CEO of Paul Stuart on June 14, 2016, marking the first time someone unrelated to the Ostrove family led the company. In 2019 the company began offering a lower-priced made-to-measure service branded as customLAB, and a luxury MTM jeans service branded as denimBAR. In 2019 the company celebrated the redesign of its omnichannel e-commerce website with home delivery via vintage Packard automobile.



September 3, 1981 NEW YORK TIMES

Ralph Ostrove, founder and chairman of the board of Paul Stuart Inc., the men's clothing store at Madison Avenue and 45th Street, died Tuesday at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, L.I., after a brief illness. He was 83 years old and lived in Flushing, Queens.

As the son of a leading retailer of men's clothing in New York, he made the Paul Stuart store one of the city's most popular outlets for men's clothing in what is regarded as the subdued classic or understated traditional style.

Mr. Ostrove was the son of Harry Ostrove, who founded the Broadstreet's chain of stores, which were discontinued several years ago. Ralph Ostrove, who eventually became president of Broadstreet's, left the company in 1937. In 1938 he founded Paul Stuart Inc., named for his son, Paul Stuart Ostrove, who is now vice president of the company.

In addition to his son, who lives in Roslyn, L.I., Mr. Ostrove is survived by his wife, Jean; a daughter, Barbara Grodd of Rye, N.Y.; a sister, Ruth Meltsner of Flushing, and five grandchildren.




Cliff Grodd, Paul Stuart Legend, Dies of Cancer

Clifford Grodd, the driving force and ceo of Paul Stuart, died after a long battle with cancer.

By Jean E. Palmieri and David Lipke and Brenner Thomas on May 26, 2010

Clifford Grodd, the driving force and chief executive officer of Paul Stuart who ran the upscale specialty store for nearly 60 years, died Tuesday at his New York City home after a long battle with cancer. He was 86.

Due to his illness, Grodd, a men’s wear icon and top-notch merchant, had been unable to come to the store for the past 18 months, but nevertheless called in several times a day to check on the business.

This story first appeared in the May 26, 2010 issue of WWD.

In his honor, the store will be closed Thursday, the day memorial services are scheduled to be held at 1:30 p.m. at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home at Madison Avenue and 81st Street in Manhattan.

“We will close for the day in respect for his memory and great contribution to the industry,” said Sandy Neiman, Paul Stuart’s director of marketing.

Born in New Haven, Conn., and educated at the University of Connecticut, Grodd served as an Air Force gunner during World War II and was shot down over Hungary, captured and put into solitary confinement by the Germans. At the end of the war, he was awarded a Purple Heart.

Paul Stuart, a 60,000-square-foot fixture on Madison Avenue and 45th Street, was founded by Ralph Ostrove and his cousin Norman in 1938. Ralph Ostrove named the store after his son, Paul Stuart Ostrove. Grodd, who had completed an executive training program at the G. Fox department store in Hartford, Conn., joined Paul Stuart circa 1951 after marrying Ostrove’s daughter, Barbara.

Ostrove was in declining health and wanted to retire, so he asked Grodd to buy out his share of the company, which he did. The Paul Stuart logo features a fictional character sitting on a fence at Yale, according to Grodd’s account.

Grodd once described his aesthetic to DNR, WWD’s former sibling publication, this way: “We’ve constantly striven to be as upscale as possible within the milieu of our particular type of clothing, which is quite cosmopolitan in image. It’s still soft and not exaggerated, easy to wear, hopefully subtle, understated and flattering.”

Paul Stuart became known for its adherence to a soft shoulder look in tailoring. The company claimed to be the first American retailer to bring side vents to the States, as well as the three-button suit.

All of the merchandise at Paul Stuart bears the retailer’s brand. The company designs its own product and also alters other product it buys in the market to tailor it to the Paul Stuart aesthetic. Earlier in its life, the store carried outside brands, such as Gant, Corbin and Southwick, but Grodd believed Paul Stuart could distinguish itself from competitors by offering its own branded merchandise.

“I wasn’t interested in competing with designers or brands who put their names in other places. I felt that if we didn’t know our customer better than someone sitting 1,000 miles away, then we didn’t belong in the same business,” he said.

A Chicago store, which opened in 1995, now occupies a town house on East Oak Street. The company also operates licensed units in Japan and South Korea.

“I’ve known Cliff my entire career. He was instrumental to building one of the most respected brands. He was a great leader in our industry, an incredible person and a true friend,” said Ralph Lauren.

Over the years, Grodd helped dress celebrities including Cary Grant (“I had to personally take care of him at the Plaza,” said Grodd), Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra, Paul Newman (“when he lived in Fresh Meadows”), Mel Brooks, David McCullough, David Halberstam and Philip Roth. “They look good because they’re comfortable and distinguished. And it’s natural, not staid,” noted Grodd.

He was known to exercise regularly early in the morning at the Yale Club and be among the first to arrive at work at the store, striding into his second-floor office. His exacting standards led employees to joke at times that “Grodd is in the details.”

In 2007, Grodd introduced a younger label to his stores, called Phineas Cole. Meant to appeal to a more trend-conscious consumer in his 30s, it was the company’s first subbrand and was based on the fictitious “errant nephew” of Paul Stuart, according to Grodd.

“We’re all saddened by his death,” Neiman said. “The man was a master retailer. He was a great inspiration and a leader in men’s wear and the business.”

Neiman stressed that since Grodd’s illness, Michael Ostrove, senior vice president, had been running the business on a daily basis. He will now be elevated to president and will continue to run the store.

The industry mourned Grodd’s passing, recalling him as a tough, determined retailer — one who understood his customer but stuck to his convictions. Famously, Grodd retained the store’s private label focus and refused to let designer names eclipse the prestige of Paul Stuart even after men’s wear became a brand-oriented business.

“His legacy is that you can operate a business and stick to your principles,” Wilkes Bashford said. “He stuck to his guns no matter what was happening in the business.”

“He was very independent,” said Jack Mitchell. “He constantly wanted to improve his own label.”

Others view Grodd’s legacy in his aesthetic. “If he saw a fabric or silhouette he liked, he went with it strong. There was never any halfway,” said designer Joseph Abboud, who met Grodd when he was a young man working for Louis Boston. “He always told me, ‘Joey, you’ll be a good designer because you worked retail.’ He knew that, for a designer, the retail floor is where the battle is won and lost.”

Bill Roberti, former ceo of Brooks Brothers and now with Alvarez & Marsal, said, “Cliff was a consummate gentleman. He had wonderful vision and great style. He was a true icon in the men’s business and will surely be sorely missed by his employees and customers.”

Landing Paul Stuart continued to be a prestigious account for the vendor community. “For that Wall Street elegant guy, that store was among the best,” said Arnold Silverstone, president of Samuelsohn, which makes private label tailored clothing for the retailer. “Selling to them was and is a big deal for a vendor.”


Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Experts call for regulation after latest botched art restoration in Spain



Original painting and two travesties
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s original work (left) and two attempts at restoring it.



Botched restoration of an Elias Garcia Martinez fresco on the walls of the Santuario de Misericordia de Borja church in Zaragoza, Spain. Photograph: Centro de Estudios Borjanos/EPA

Experts call for regulation after latest botched art restoration in Spain

Immaculate Conception painting by Murillo reportedly cleaned by furniture restorer

Sam Jones in Madrid
@swajones
Published onMon 22 Jun 2020 19.30 BST

Conservation experts in Spain have called for a tightening of the laws covering restoration work after a copy of a famous painting by the baroque artist Bartolomé Esteban Murillo became the latest in a long line of artworks to suffer a damaging and disfiguring repair.

A private art collector in Valencia was reportedly charged €1,200 by a furniture restorer to have the picture of the Immaculate Conception cleaned. However, the job did not go as planned and the face of the Virgin Mary was left unrecognisable despite two attempts to restore it to its original state.

The case has inevitably resulted in comparisons with the infamous “Monkey Christ” incident eight years ago, when a devout parishioner’s attempt to restore a painting of the scourged Christ on the wall of a church on the outskirts of the north-eastern Spanish town of Borja made headlines around the world.

Parallels have also been drawn with the botched restoration of a 16th-century polychrome statue of Saint George and the dragon in northern Spain that left the warrior saint resembling Tintin or a Playmobil figure.

Fernando Carrera, a professor at the Galician School for the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage, said such cases highlighted the need for work to be carried out only by properly trained restorers.

“I don’t think this guy – or these people – should be referred to as restorers,” Carrera told the Guardian. “Let’s be honest: they’re bodgers who botch things up. They destroy things.”

Carrera, a former president of Spain’s Professional Association of Restorers and Conservators (Acre), said the law currently allowed people to engage in restoration projects even if they lacked the necessary skills. “Can you imagine just anyone being allowed to operate on other people? Or someone being allowed to sell medicine without a pharmacist’s licence? Or someone who’s not an architect being allowed to put up a building?”

While restorers were “far less important than doctors”, he added, the sector sill needed to be strictly regulated for the sake of Spain’s cultural history. “We see this kind of thing time and time again and yet it keeps on happening.

“Paradoxically, it shows just how important professional restorers are. We need to invest in our heritage, but even before we talk about money, we need to make sure that the people who undertake this kind of work have been trained in it.”

María Borja, one of Acre’s vice-presidents, also said incidents such as the Murillo mishap were “unfortunately far more common than you might think”. Speaking to Europa Press, which broke news of the Murillo repair, she added: “We only find out about them when people report them to the press or on social media, but there are numerous situation when works are undertaken by people who aren’t trained.”

Non-professional interventions, Borja added, “mean that artworks suffer and the damage can be irreversible”.

Carrera said Spain had a huge amount of cultural and historical heritage because of all the different groups that have passed through the country over the centuries, leaving behind their marks and monuments.

Another part of the problem, he added, was that “some politicians just don’t give a toss about heritage”, meaning that Spain did not have the financial resources to safeguard all the treasures of its past. “We need to focus society’s attention on this so that it chooses representatives who put heritage on the agenda,” he said.

“It doesn’t have to be at the very top because it’s obviously not like healthcare or employment – there are many more important things. But this is our history.”

Sunday, 21 June 2020

ALDEN SHOES / Alden Shoe Co. lawsuits allege former CFO funneled millions in embezzled money to Bianca de la Garza



Alden Shoe Co. lawsuits allege former CFO funneled millions in embezzled money to Bianca de la Garza

By Janelle Nanos Globe Staff,Updated June 15, 2020, 1:36 p.m.

The local television star and fashion influencer Bianca de la Garza’s Lucky Gal Productions may have seen its luck run out.

Alden Shoe Co., a family-owned footwear maker in Middleborough, has filed a civil lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court alleging that its former vice president and chief financial officer, Richard Hajjar, embezzled $27 million from the company and funneled $15 million of it into the TV and fashion businesses of de la Garza, a former news anchor who runs a beauty business under the name BDG Enterprises. Bianca, Lucky Gal, and BDG were all named as defendants in the lawsuit.

The company also sued Hajjar in Plymouth Superior Court to recover the $27 million, allegedly stolen from 2011 to 2019.

According to the court filings, Hajjar bought a $1.1 million New York City co-op apartment for de la Garza using money stolen from the company and purchased other extravagant gifts, including a Mercedes-Benz, diamond jewelry, and designer handbags and clothing. The court has approved the company’s seizure of Hajjar’s assets held in seven banks and financial services companies, excluding his pension.

No criminal charges have been filed.

De la Garza, Hajjar, and attorneys for Alden Shoe had not as of Monday evening responded to e-mails and phone messages from the Globe seeking comment.

De la Garza, a Milton native and Emerson College graduate, was a longtime host and news anchor at WCVB-TV (Channel 5) before starting her own media company in 2014.

The court documents indicate that Alden, a New England footwear stalwart founded in 1884, hired Hajjar in 1987. According to the filings, Hajjar’s father had been the CPA for the father of the company’s current president, Arthur S. Tarlow Jr., and Hajjar’s two brothers worked for the company. Trust ran deep between the two families.

Hajjar, a “trusted advisor” to the Tarlow family, eventually rose to vice president and corporate secretary, a member of the board of directors, and chief financial officer. Until he was dismissed in 2019, Hajjar was handling “most day-to-day financial matters at Alden," a filing states.

According to the documents, Hajjar’s relationship with de la Garza began around 2012, while she was an anchor at WCVB. The two became friends and vacationed together, and Hajjar lavished gifts on her worth “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” according to the documents.

Only in October 2019 did the company learn that Hajjar’s opulent offerings had been paid for with money embezzled from the company’s bank accounts, a filing states. After a forensic accounting investigation, the company concluded that Hajjar had stolen $27 million since 2011.

The alleged theft came to light after Tarlow, the company’s president, approached Hajjar about moving funds from a company bank account into family trusts. At the time, the company account should have had more than $10 million in it, the filings state, but Hajjar dodged the request and “after repeated delays and follow-up requests” assured Tarlow the funds would be wired between the accounts.

Then Hajjar stopped showing up for work. He told Tarlow, by text message, that he wasn’t feeling well.

When the wire transfer didn’t go through, Hajjar allegedly stopped responding to Tarlow’s texts.

Tarlow immediately went to his Santander bank branch, where he learned $10 million in retained earnings was missing from the account, the filing alleges.

Soon after, Tarlow realized that Hajjar had, without his knowledge or authorization, “opened and completely drawn down a line of credit” worth $8 million at Bank of America, the documents say.

In all, the forensic review found that Hajjar took $27 million from Alden’s bank accounts, including $3.7 million that he took by writing out checks to himself, the filings allege.

In several instances, Hajjar allegedly transferred tens of millions of dollars from the company’s active bank accounts into another trust account that the company owned, but which was dormant. Hajjar had himself named a trustee of that account, then used it to transfer at least $24 million, using those funds to secretly “write more checks to himself and pay exorbitant personal credit card bills,” according to the court documents.

The filing also alleges that $15 million was funneled through that dormant account to de la Garza and her company Lucky Gal Productions, including over $1.6 million transferred directly to de la Garza’s personal bank accounts from 2015 to 2019. And in 2016, Hajjar used stolen funds to pay for both the deposit and closing costs on de la Garza’s New York City co-op, court documents allege.

Hajjar’s company-funded gifts to de la Garza, the filings state, included “a Mercedes-Benz, a $60,000 diamond bracelet, a $158,000 diamond ring, diamond earrings, designer handbags, designer clothing, and other luxury goods.”

He also gave his personal American Express card to a personal shopper at Neiman Marcus, where de la Garza “freely purchased” hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of merchandise each month, the filing alleges, and Hajjar paid off those credit card bills using money from Alden.

But Hajjar didn’t stop at lavishing gifts on de la Garza; he also allegedly transferred at least $11.5 million directly into the bank accounts for Lucky Gal Productions.

The couple signed paperwork establishing a “Production Financing Agreement” in 2014, the year de la Garza left her job as an anchor at WCVB’s “EyeOpener." According to the agreement, Hajjar committed to paying at least $3.3 million for the production of a new series but “when or even whether” he could recover the money was up to the “sole control and discretion of Lucky Gal,” the filing states.

In a 2018 interview in Forbes, de la Garza discussed her decision to leave the anchor desk and start Lucky Gal Productions. “So, I went ahead, and I started my company . . . and I launched a show," she said. "I raised all the money, got all the distribution.”

De la Garza’s late-night show, “Bianca Unanchored,” launched in January 2015, eventually got national distribution, airing on seven CBS-owned stations in major markets such as Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Dallas, and Baltimore. The show went off the air in January of the following year.

The filing alleges that Lucky Gal had “few or no assets” at the time the production agreement was signed and “did not generate a profit" during the airing of de la Garza’s series.

“Mr. Hajjar has never recouped or recovered any of the money that he transferred to Lucky Gal,” the court documents state, and alleges that “[s]ince its foundation, Lucky Gal has never been profitable.”

But Hajjar committed additional millions of dollars to help keep Lucky Gal productions afloat and, in all, transferred at least $12.3 million to Lucky Gal and its beneficiaries from 2015 to 2019, the documents state.

Attorneys for the footwear company filed a letter in November demanding that de la Garza immediately return all of the allegedly misappropriated funds. They estimated she had received more than $2.7 million in 2019 alone, including a $230,000 wire transfer in October, the month Hajjar stopped responding to Tarlow’s texts.

According to the court filings, de la Garza’s attorney responded to the letter, saying that she would place all remaining funds from Hajjar into a client trust account. But she has yet to return any funds.

In the suit against Hajjar, Alden’s attorneys said he had expressed a willingness to cooperate and had “never denied” that he had stolen millions. But Hajjar has returned less than $3 million in assets to the company, transferring back $214,000 in cash, approximately $20,000 in jewelry, $195,000 through the sale of gold coins, and $175,000 from the sale of vehicles, according to the filings. And Hajjar is willing to pay back an additional “$100,000 from the further sale of gold coins."

Mark Shanahan and John Ellement of the Globe staff contributed reporting.



Richard Hajjar and Bianca de la Garza


Bianca de la Garza is firing back — at the media

Facing a $15 million lawsuit, the former WCVB anchor has hired a lawyer known for representing President Donald Trump and threatening to sue news outlets.

By Nik DeCosta-Klipa, Boston.com Staff
updated on June 19, 2020

Facing a multi-million dollar lawsuit, Bianca de la Garza is getting some help from a high-powered lawyer known for representing President Donald Trump and suing the website Gawker out of existence.

Charles Harder, the well-known media lawyer representing de la Garza and her companies, sent letters Wednesday threatening to sue at least two media outlets for purportedly misstating aspects of the lawsuit against the former WCVB anchor.

Alden Shoe Company is suing de la Garza for $15 million that lawyers say was stolen from the longtime Massachusetts-based company by its former chief financial officer, who was friends with and developed a romantic interest in the TV host. The civil lawsuit — which says much of the money was used to lavish de la Garza with gifts and fund her short-lived late-night show — was filed earlier this month in Suffolk County Superior Court and first reported on publicly this week.

Harder’s letters do not address the central premise of the lawsuit.

However, they do take issue with several “false and defamatory statements” in at least two articles about the suit and demand a correction and apology from the San Francisco Chronicle and Esquire, “among other publications,” according to an email from Harder late Wednesday night. Boston Globe Media Partners, which includes Boston.com, received a similar letter regarding an article that ran in The Boston Globe.

In the letters, Harder takes issues with statements — both in an Associated Press article published by the Chronicle and a short Esquire blog post — that suggest de la Garza engaged in criminal embezzlement.

While the lawsuit says that de la Garza ““knew or should have known” that the funds she received from former Alden CFO Richard Hajjar were stolen, no criminal charges have been filed. Alden is also separately suing Hajjar to recover $27 million in allegedly stolen funds in Plymouth County Superior Court.

Harder’s letter to the Esquire also disputes the notion that de la Garza was “in a relationship” with Hajjar, as was written in the post.

“They are not and have never been in a romantic relationship of any kind,” Harder wrote.

And the letter disputes the notion that Hajjar “funneled” any of the $15 million into de la Garza’s beauty product business, BDG Beauty.

“BDG received no such funds,” Harder wrote.

According to the lawsuit, most of the money went to de la Garza’s production company, Lucky Gal. However, the lawsuit also says that she “commingled” the assets of Lucky Gal with her personal assets and other business pursuits, including BDG Beauty. As of Thursday afternoon, Harder had yet to respond to an email asking whether his team disputes the latter claim.

He also did not immediately say how many “other publications” were sent letters Wednesday, which threaten potential legal action if the “complete fabrications” are not corrected by Thursday night. It also demanded an apology for each of the highlighted statements within the same 24-hour timespan.

“Failure to do so will leave our clients with no alternative but to consider instituting immediate legal proceedings against you,” the letters say. “Should that occur, my clients would pursue all available causes of action and seek all available legal remedies to the maximum extent permitted by law.”

Representatives for Hearst, which owns both the Chronicle and Esquire, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Harder, whose office is based in Los Angeles, has made a name for himself threatening to sue media outlets — and, at times, doing so successfully. In 2016, he won a high-profile invasion of privacy case that led to the bankruptcy of Gawker Media and the demise of its flagship website. Harder has since represented Trump and his campaign in a variety of lawsuits, both real and threatened, against major news organizations — as well as against the porn actress known as Stormy Daniels, who says she had an affair with the president.


According to public records, the Trump campaign has paid Harder’s firm nearly $2.9 million this election cycle





HISTORY OF ALDEN SHOE COMPANY

The Alden Shoe Company was founded in 1884 by Charles H. Alden in Middleborough, Massachusetts.

It is difficult to imagine just how active and important the shoe industry was in Massachusetts so long ago. Early New England shoemaking was a trade based upon one craftsman making a pair a day in one room cottages (called "ten footers"). Beginning in 1850 a series of inventions led to mechanized stitching and lasting operations and the birth of New England shoe industry followed rapidly. The productivity gains over the traditional shoemaker were on the order of 500 - 700%, yet the new methods also led to an extraordinary improvement in both quality and consistency. The explosive growth of the shoe industry in eastern Massachusetts at the turn of the century was impressive. Numerous companies were being started, and demand soared as product made its way west and south on newly expanded rail routes. Charles Alden's factory prospered, adding children's shoes to their offering of men's shoes and custom boots.

By 1933, at Charles Alden's retirement, operations moved to Brockton, Massachusetts and joined with the Old Colony factory. The Great Depression took a toll on countless shoe companies in New England. Although production demand increased during World War II, by the late 40's renewed consumer demand had fueled the search for manufacturing regions offering lower labor costs. Over the remainder of the century attrition would take hold as manufacturers looked farther and farther away in search of low cost labor and materials to meet the insatiable demand in the U.S.A. for low cost, mass-market consumer footwear.   

Most of the companies who remained in New England could not compete in the demanding post-war economy. Yet Alden prospered by relying not on lower quality mass-markets but on high quality dress shoes, and excelling in specialties such as orthopedic and medical footwear. It was a period of growth and intensive development at Alden, especially in the design of comfortable, orthopedically correct lasts. In 1970 a new factory was constructed in Middleborough, Massachusetts where production continues today.

 Alden is now the only original New England shoe and bootmaker remaining of the hundreds who began so long ago. Still a family owned business, still carrying forward a tradition of quality genuine-welted shoemaking that is exceptional in every way.







Saturday, 20 June 2020

'Product of theft': Greece urges UK to return Parthenon marbles / ELGIN MARBLES: The Relocation debate / The History of the Removal and challenges of Relocation.



'Product of theft': Greece urges UK to return Parthenon marbles

The New Acropolis Museum wants to display antiquities removed on the orders of Lord Elgin

Helena Smith in Athens
Published onSat 20 Jun 2020 18.35 BST

The New Acropolis Museum was purpose-built to host the one thing every Greek government will always agree on: the Parthenon marbles being returned from London.

On Saturday, as the four-storey edifice marked its 11th anniversary, Athens reinvigorated the cultural row calling the British Museum’s retention of the antiquities illegal and “contrary to any moral principle”.

“Since September 2003 when construction work for the Acropolis Museum began, Greece has systematically demanded the return of the sculptures on display in the British Museum because they are the product of theft,” the country’s culture minister Lina Mendoni told the Greek newspaper Ta Nea.

“The current Greek government – like any Greek government – is not going to stop claiming the stolen sculptures which the British Museum, contrary to any moral principle, continues to hold illegally.”

For years, she said, the museum had argued that Athens had nowhere decent enough to display Phidias’ masterpieces, insisting that its stance was “in stark contrast” to the view of the UK public. In repeated polls, Britons have voiced support for the repatriation of the carvings, controversially removed from the Parthenon in 1802 at the behest of Lord Elgin, London’s ambassador to the Sublime Porte.

“It is sad that one of the world’s largest and most important museums is still governed by outdated, colonialist views.”

Greece’s centre-right administration has vowed to step up the campaign to win back artworks that adorned the frieze of the Periclean showpiece ahead of the country’s bicentennial independence celebrations next year.

Within weeks of his election, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Greece’s prime minister, told the Observer Athens was prepared to allow treasures that had never travelled abroad to be exhibited in London in exchange for the marbles being reunited with “a monument of global cultural heritage”.

Well-placed government officials have not excluded the EU pressing for the return of the antiquities as part of an overarching Brexit deal.

The row was injected with renewed rancour when the British Museum’s director, Hartwig Fischer, described their removal from Greece as “a creative act”. Half of the 160-metre frieze is in London, with 50 metres in Athens and other pieces displayed in a total of eight other museums across Europe

Last year more than 14.5 million people visited the new Acropolis museum among the most popular cultural institutions globally.

For those who want the sculptures back in Athens, the Acropolis Museum’s top-floor Parthenon gallery is the perfect antidote to the dark Duveen gallery in the British Museum.

Some 2,500 years after its construction, the Acropolis is viewed as Pericles’ greatest triumph, testimony, say admirers, to his role in the achievements of the Golden Age.

As a classicist with an avowed love for ancient Greece, Boris Johnson has often paid tribute to the soldier statesman’s mastery of governance “by the many, not the few”, placing a bust of Pericles – purchased from the British Museum’s gift shop – on his desk as soon as he moved into Downing Street.

But the British prime minister remains an ardent supporter of the sculptures remaining in London contending they were “rescued, quite rightly, by Elgin”.

This month his predecessor, Tony Blair, conceded in an interview with the Greek newspaper Kathimerini that the sculptures had been in a box marked “too hot to handle”.




Relocation debate

Rationale for returning to Athens

Those arguing for the Marbles' return claim legal, moral and artistic grounds. Their arguments include:

The main stated aim of the Greek campaign is to reunite the Parthenon sculptures around the world in order to restore "organic elements" which "at present remain without cohesion, homogeneity and historicity of the monument to which they belong" and allow visitors to better appreciate them as a whole;
Presenting all the extant Parthenon Marbles in their original historical and cultural environment would permit their "fuller understanding and interpretation";
Precedents have been set with the return of fragments of the monument by Italy, Sweden,the University of Heidelberg, Germany, the Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Vatican;
The marbles may have been obtained illegally and hence should be returned to their rightful owner;
Returning the Parthenon sculptures (Greece is requesting only the return of sculptures from this particular building) would not set a precedent for other restitution claims because of the distinctively "universal value" of the Parthenon;
Safekeeping of the marbles would be ensured at the New Acropolis Museum, situated to the south of the Acropolis hill. It was built to hold the Parthenon sculpture in natural sunlight that characterises the Athenian climate, arranged in the same way as they would have been on the Parthenon. The museum's facilities have been equipped with state-of-the-art technology for the protection and preservation of exhibits;
The friezes are part of a single work of art, thus it was unintended that fragments of this piece be scattered across different locations;
Casts of the marbles would be just as able to demonstrate the cultural influences which Greek sculptures have had upon European art as would the original marbles, whereas the context with which the marbles belong cannot be replicated within the British Museum;
A poll suggested that more British people (37%) supported the marbles' restoration to Greece than opposed it (23%)
The conservation claims made by British authorities over the time Parthenon Marbles have been kept at the British Museum seem controversial, if compared to contemporary British expeditions carried out in other parts of the Greek world. British architects Samuel Angell and William Harris[disambiguation needed] excavated at Selinus in the course of their tour of Sicily, and came upon the sculptured metopes from the Archaic temple of “Temple C.” Although local Bourbon officials tried to stop them, they continued their work, and attempted to export their finds to England, destined for the British Museum. Now in the echos of the activities of Lord Elgin in Athens, Angell and Harris’s shipments were diverted to Palermo by force of the Bourbon authorities and are now kept in the Palermo archeological museum.
In a 2018 interview to the Athens newspaper Ta Nea, British Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn did not rule out returning the Marbles to Greece, stating, "As with anything stolen or taken from occupied or colonial possession—including artefacts looted from other countries in the past—we should be engaged in constructive talks with the Greek government about returning the sculptures."

Rationale for retaining in London

A range of different arguments have been presented by scholars,[53] British political leaders and British Museum spokespersons over the years in defence of retention of the Parthenon Marbles by the British Museum. The main points include:

the assertion that fulfilling all restitution claims would empty most of the world's great museums – this has also caused concerns among other European and American museums, with one potential target being the famous bust of Nefertiti in Berlin's Neues Museum; in addition, portions of Parthenon marbles are kept by many other European museums. Advocates of the British Museum's position also point out that the Marbles in Britain receive about 6 million visitors per year as opposed to 1.5 million visitors to the Acropolis Museum. The removal of the Marbles to Greece would therefore, they argue, significantly reduce the number of people who have the opportunity to visit the Marbles. The English Romantic poet John Keats, and the French sculptor Auguste Rodin, are notable examples of visitors to the Parthenon Marbles after their removal to England who subsequently produced famous work inspired by them.
the assertion that Modern Greeks have "no claim to the stones because you could see from their physiognomy that they were not descended from the men who had carved them," a quote attributed to Auberon Waugh. In nineteenth century Western Europe, Greeks of the Classical period were widely imagined to have been light skinned and blond. This view has been overturned by modern genetic research and is now widely understood as having racist underpinnings.
the assertion that Greece could mount no court case, because Elgin claims to have been granted permission by what was then Greece's ruling government and a legal principle of limitation would apply, i.e., the ability to pursue claims expires after a period of time prescribed by law;
The last was tested in the English High Court in May 2005 in relation to Nazi-looted Old Master artworks held at the British Museum, which the Museum's Trustees wished to return to the family of the original owner; the Court found that due to the British Museum Act 1963 these works could not be returned without further legislation. The judge, Mr Justice Morritt, found that the Act, which protects the collections for posterity, could not be overridden by a "moral obligation" to return works, even if they are believed to have been plundered.[108][109] It has been argued, however, that the case was not directly relevant to the Parthenon Marbles, as it was about a transfer of ownership, and not the loan of artefacts for public exhibition overseas, which is provided for in the 1963 Act.

Another argument for keeping the Parthenon Marbles within the UK has been made by J. H. Merryman, Sweitzer Professor of Law at Stanford University and co-operating professor in the Stanford Art Department. He has argued that the Marbles are now established as a significant element of Britain's own cultural history, as "the Elgin Marbles have been in England since 1821 and in that time have become a part of the British cultural heritage." He has also argued that if the Parthenon were actually being restored, there would be a moral argument for returning the Marbles to the temple whence they came, and thus restoring its integrity. The Guardian has written that many among those who support repatriation imply that the marbles would be displayed in their original position on the Parthenon. However, the Greek plan is to transfer them from a museum in London to one in Athens. These arguments are perhaps complicated a little by the completion of the new Acropolis Museum in 2009, where the half not removed by Elgin is now displayed, aligned in orientation and within sight of the Parthenon, with the position of the missing elements clearly marked and space left should they be returned to Athens.

The Trustees of the British Museum make the following statement on the Museum website in response to arguments for the relocation of the Parthenon Marbles to the Acropolis Museum: "The Acropolis Museum allows the Parthenon sculptures that are in Athens to be appreciated against the backdrop of ancient Greek and Athenian history. This display does not alter the Trustees’ view that the sculptures are part of everyone’s shared heritage and transcend cultural boundaries. The Trustees remain convinced that the current division allows different and complementary stories to be told about the surviving sculptures, highlighting their significance for world culture and affirming the universal legacy of ancient Greece."

Public perception of the issue

Popular support for restitution

Outside Greece a campaign for the Return of the Marbles began in 1981 with the formation of the International Organising Committee - Australia - for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles, and in 1983 with the formation of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles. International organisations such as UNESCO and the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures, as well as campaign groups such as, Marbles Reunited, and stars of Hollywood, such as George Clooney and Matt Damon, as well as Human Rights activists, lawyers, and the people of the arts, voiced their strong support for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece.

American actor George Clooney voiced his support for the return by the United Kingdom and reunification of the Parthenon Marbles in Greece, during his promotional campaign for his 2014 film The Monuments Men which retells the story of Allied efforts to save important masterpieces of art and other culturally important items before their destruction by Hitler and the Nazis during World War II. His remarks regarding the Marbles reignited the debate in the United Kingdom about their return to their home country. Public polls were also carried out by newspapers in response to Clooney's stance on this matter.

An internet campaign site, in part sponsored by Metaxa, aims to consolidate support for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to the New Acropolis Museum in Athens.

Noted public intellectual Christopher Hitchens had, at numerous times, argued for their repatriation.

In BBC TV Series QI (series 12, episode 7, XL edition), host Stephen Fry provided his support for the return of the Parthenon Marbles while recounting the story of the Greeks giving lead shot to their Ottoman Empire enemies, as the Ottomans were running out of ammunition, in order to prevent damage to the Acropolis. Fry had previously written a blog post along much the same lines in December 2011 entitled "A Modest Proposal", signing off with "It's time we lost our marbles".

Opinion polls

A YouGov poll in 2014 suggested that more British people (37%) supported the marbles' restoration to Greece than opposed it (23%).

In older polls, Ipsos MORI asked in 1998, "If there were a referendum on whether or not the Elgin Marbles should be returned to Greece, how would you vote?" This returned these values from the British general adult population:

40% in favour of returning the marbles to Greece
15% in favour of keeping them at the British Museum
18% would not vote
27% had no opinion

Another opinion poll in 2002 (again carried out by MORI) showed similar results, with 40% of the British public in favour of returning the marbles to Greece, 16% in favour of keeping them within Britain and the remainder either having no opinion or would not vote.When asked how they would vote if a number of conditions were met (including, but not limited to, a long-term loan whereby the British maintained ownership and joint control over maintenance) the number responding in favour of return increased to 56% and those in favour of keeping them dropped to 7%.

Both MORI poll results have been characterised by proponents of the return of the Marbles to Greece as representing a groundswell of public opinion supporting return, since the proportion explicitly supporting return to Greece significantly exceeds the number who are explicitly in favour of keeping the Marbles at the British Museum.




The Parthenon Marbles (Greek: Γλυπτά του Παρθενώνα), also known as the Elgin Marbles (/ˈɛlɡɪn/), are a collection of Classical Greek marble sculptures made under the supervision of the architect and sculptor Phidias and his assistants. They were originally part of the temple of the Parthenon and other buildings on the Acropolis of Athens.

From 1801 to 1812, agents of Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin removed about half of the surviving sculptures of the Parthenon, as well as sculptures from the Propylaea and Erechtheum. The Marbles were transported by sea to Britain. Elgin later claimed to have obtained in 1801 an official decree (a firman) from the Sublime Porte, the central government of the Ottoman Empire which were then the rulers of Greece. This firman has not been found in the Ottoman archives despite its wealth of documents from the same period and its veracity is disputed.The Acropolis Museum displays a proportion of the complete frieze, aligned in orientation and within sight of the Parthenon, with the position of the missing elements clearly marked and space left should they be returned to Athens.

In Britain, the acquisition of the collection was supported by some, while some others, such as Lord Byron, likened the Earl's actions to vandalism or looting. Following a public debate in Parliament and its subsequent exoneration of Elgin, he sold the Marbles to the British government in 1816. They were then passed to the British Museum, where they are now on display in the purpose-built Duveen Gallery.



After gaining its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1832, the newly-founded Greek state began a series of projects to restore its monuments and retrieve looted art. It has expressed its disapproval of Elgin's removal of the Marbles from the Acropolis and the Parthenon,[19] which is regarded as one of the world's greatest cultural monuments.[20] International efforts to repatriate the Marbles to Greece were intensified in the 1980s by then Greek Minister of Culture Melina Mercouri, and there are now many organisations actively campaigning for the Marbles' return, several united as part of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures. The Greek government itself continues to urge the return of the marbles to Athens so as to be unified with the remaining marbles and for the complete Parthenon frieze sequence to be restored, through diplomatic, political and legal means.

In 2014, UNESCO offered to mediate between Greece and the United Kingdom to resolve the dispute, although this was later turned down by the British Museum on the basis that UNESCO works with government bodies, not trustees of museums.



Background
Built in the ancient era, the Parthenon was extensively damaged during the Great Turkish War (1683–1699) against the Republic of Venice. The defending Turks fortified the Acropolis and used the Parthenon as a gunpowder magazine. On 26 September 1687, a Venetian artillery round, fired from the Hill of Philopappus, blew up the magazine, and the building was partly destroyed. The explosion blew out the building's central portion and caused the cella's walls to crumble into rubble. Three of the four walls collapsed, or nearly so, and about three-fifths of the sculptures from the frieze fell.[ About three hundred people were killed in the explosion, which showered marble fragments over a significant area.[28] For the next century and a half, portions of the remaining structure were scavenged for building material and looted of any remaining objects of value.

Acquisition

In November 1798 the Earl of Elgin was appointed as "Ambassador Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of His Britannic Majesty to the Sublime Porte of Selim III, Sultan of Turkey" (Greece was then part of the Ottoman Empire). Before his departure to take up the post he had approached officials of the British government to inquire if they would be interested in employing artists to take casts and drawings of the sculptured portions of the Parthenon. According to Lord Elgin, "the answer of the Government ... was entirely negative."

Lord Elgin decided to carry out the work himself, and employed artists to take casts and drawings under the supervision of the Neapolitan court painter, Giovani Lusieri. According to a Turkish local, marble sculptures that fell were being burned to obtain lime for building. Although his original intention was only to document the sculptures, in 1801 Lord Elgin began to remove material from the Parthenon and its surrounding structures under the supervision of Lusieri. Pieces were also removed from the Erechtheion, the Propylaia, and the Temple of Athena Nike, all inside the Acropolis.

The excavation and removal was completed in 1812 at a personal cost to Elgin of around £70,000. Elgin intended to use the marbles to decorate Broomhall House, his private home near Dunfermline in Scotland, but a costly divorce suit forced him to sell them to settle his debts. Elgin sold the Parthenon Marbles to the British government for less than it cost him to procure them, declining higher offers from other potential buyers, including Napoleon.

The Parthenon Marbles acquired by Elgin include some 21 figures from the statuary from the east and west pediments, 15 of an original 92 metope panels depicting battles between the Lapiths and the Centaurs, as well as 75 meters of the Parthenon Frieze which decorated the horizontal course set above the interior architrave of the temple. As such, they represent more than half of what now remains of the surviving sculptural decoration of the Parthenon.

Elgin's acquisitions also included objects from other buildings on the Athenian Acropolis: a Caryatid from Erechtheum; four slabs from the parapet frieze of the Temple of Athena Nike; and a number of other architectural fragments of the Parthenon, Propylaia, Erechtheum, the Temple of Athene Nike, and the Treasury of Atreus.



Legality of the removal from Athens
The Acropolis was at that time an Ottoman military fort, so Elgin required special permission to enter the site, the Parthenon, and the surrounding buildings. He stated that he had obtained a firman from the Sultan which allowed his artists to access the site, but he was unable to produce the original documentation. However, Elgin presented a document claimed to be an English translation of an Italian copy made at the time. This document is now kept in the British Museum. Its authenticity has been questioned, as it lacked the formalities characterising edicts from the sultan. Vassilis Demetriades, Professor of Turkish Studies at the University of Crete, has argued that "any expert in Ottoman diplomatic language can easily ascertain that the original of the document which has survived was not a firman".The document was recorded in an appendix of an 1816 parliamentary committee report. 'The committee permission' had convened to examine a request by Elgin asking the British government to purchase the Marbles. The report said that the document[35] in the appendix was an accurate translation, in English, of an Ottoman firman dated July 1801. In Elgin's view it amounted to an Ottoman authorisation to remove the marbles. The committee was told that the original document was given to Ottoman officials in Athens in 1801. Researchers have so far failed to locate it despite the fact that firmans, being official decrees by the Sultan, were meticulously recorded as a matter of procedure, and that the Ottoman archives in Istanbul still hold a number of similar documents dating from the same period.

The parliamentary record shows that the Italian copy of the firman was not presented to the committee by Elgin himself but by one of his associates, the clergyman Rev. Philip Hunt. Hunt, who at the time resided in Bedford, was the last witness to appear before the committee and stated that he had in his possession an Italian translation of the Ottoman original. He went on to explain that he had not brought the document, because, upon leaving Bedford, he was not aware that he was to testify as a witness. The English document in the parliamentary report was filed by Hunt, but the committee was not presented with the Italian translation in Hunt's possession. William St. Clair, a contemporary biographer of Lord Elgin, said he possessed Hunt's Italian document and "vouches for the accuracy of the English translation". The committee report states on page 69 "(Signed with a signet.) Seged Abdullah Kaimacan" - however, the document presented to the committee was "an English translation of this purported translation into Italian of the original firman",[36] and had neither signet nor signature on it, a fact corroborated by St. Clair. The 1967 study by British historian William St. Clair, Lord Elgin and the Marbles, stated the sultan did not allow the removal of statues and reliefs from the Parthenon. The study judged a clause authorizing the British to take stones “with old inscriptions and figures” probably meant items in the excavations the site, not the art decorating the temples.



The document allowed Elgin and his team to erect scaffolding so as to make drawings and mouldings in chalk or gypsum, as well as to measure the remains of the ruined buildings and excavate the foundations which may have become covered in the [ghiaja (meaning gravel, debris)]; and "...that when they wish to take away [qualche (meaning 'some' or 'a few')] pieces of stone with old inscriptions or figures thereon, that no opposition be made thereto". The interpretation of these lines has been questioned even by non-restitutionalists, particularly the word qualche, which in modern language should be translated as a few but can also mean any. According to non-restitutionalists, further evidence that the removal of the sculptures by Elgin was approved by the Ottoman authorities is shown by a second firman which was required for the shipping of the marbles from Piraeus.

Many have questioned the legality of Elgin's actions, including the legitimacy of the documentation purportedly authorising them. A study by Professor David Rudenstine of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law concluded that the premise that Elgin obtained legal title to the marbles, which he then transferred to the British government, "is certainly not established and may well be false". Rudenstine's argumentation is partly based on a translation discrepancy he noticed between the surviving Italian document and the English text submitted by Hunt to the parliamentary committee. The text from the committee report reads "We therefore have written this Letter to you, and expedited it by Mr. Philip Hunt, an English Gentleman, Secretary of the aforesaid Ambassador" but according to the St. Clair Italian document the actual wording is "We therefore have written this letter to you and expedited it by N.N.". In Rudenstine's view, this substitution of "Mr. Philip Hunt" with the initials "N.N." can hardly be a simple mistake. He further argues that the document was presented after the committee's insistence that some form of Ottoman written authorisation for the removal of the marbles be provided, a fact known to Hunt by the time he testified. Thus, according to Rudenstine, "Hunt put himself in a position in which he could simultaneously vouch for the authenticity of the document and explain why he alone had a copy of it fifteen years after he surrendered the original to Ottoman officials in Athens". On two earlier occasions, Elgin stated that the Ottomans gave him written permissions more than once, but that he had "retained none of them." Hunt testified on March 13, and one of the questions asked was "Did you ever see any of the written permissions which were granted [to Lord Elgin] for removing the Marbles from the Temple of Minerva?" to which Hunt answered "yes", adding that he possessed an Italian translation of the original firman. Nonetheless, he did not explain why he had retained the translation for 15 years, whereas Elgin, who had testified two weeks earlier, knew nothing about the existence of any such document.



English travel writer Edward Daniel Clarke, an eyewitness, wrote that the Dizdar, the Ottoman fortress commander on the scene, attempted to stop the removal of the metopes but was bribed to allow it to continue. In contrast, John Merryman, Sweitzer Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and also Professor of Art at Stanford University, putting aside the discrepancy presented by Rudenstine, argues that since the Ottomans had controlled Athens since 1460, their claims to the artefacts were legal and recognisable. Sultan Selim III was grateful to the British for repelling Napoleonic expansion, and unlike his ancestor Mehmet II, the Parthenon marbles had no sentimental value to him. Further, that written permission exists in the form of the firman, which is the most formal kind of permission available from that government, and that Elgin had further permission to export the marbles, legalises his (and therefore the British Museum's) claim to the Marbles. He does note, though, that the clause concerning the extent of Ottoman authorisation to remove the marbles "is at best ambiguous", adding that the document "provides slender authority for the massive removals from the Parthenon ... The reference to 'taking away any pieces of stone' seems incidental, intended to apply to objects found while excavating. That was certainly the interpretation privately placed on the firman by several of the Elgin party, including Lady Elgin. Publicly, however, a different attitude was taken, and the work of dismantling the sculptures on the Parthenon and packing them for shipment to England began in earnest. In the process, Elgin's party damaged the structure, leaving the Parthenon not only denuded of its sculptures but further ruined by the process of removal. It is certainly arguable that Elgin exceeded the authority granted in the firman in both respects".

The issue of firmans of this nature, along with universally required bribes, was not unusual at this time: In 1801 for example, Edward Clarke and his assistant John Marten Cripps, obtained an authorisation from the governor of Athens for the removal of a statue of the goddess Demeter which was at Eleusis, with the intervention of Italian artist Giovanni Battista Lusieri who was Lord Elgin's assistant at the time. Prior to Clarke, the statue had been discovered in 1676 by the traveller George Wheler, and since then several ambassadors had submitted unsuccessful applications for its removal, but Clarke had been the one to remove the statue by force,[48] after bribing the waiwode of Athens and obtaining a firman, despite the objections and a riot, of the local population who unofficially, and against the traditions of the iconoclastic Church, worshiped the statue as the uncanonised Saint Demetra (Greek: Αγία Δήμητρα). The people would adorn the statue with garlands,[48] and believed that the goddess was able to bring fertility to their fields and that the removal of the statue would cause that benefit to disappear. Clarke also removed other marbles from Greece such as a statue of Pan, a figure of Eros, a comic mask, various reliefs and funerary steles, amongst others. Clarke donated these to the University of Cambridge and subsequently in 1803 the statue of Demeter was displayed at the university library. The collection was later moved to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge where it formed one of the two main collections of the institution.



Contemporary reaction

Contemporary museum director in the Louvre had no doubt around the legality of the acquisition of Lord Elgin. During the art restitutions of post-napoleonic France to other European States, Vivant Denon, then director of former Musee Napoleon then Louvre, wrote in a private letter to the French ambassador Talleyrand who was then engaged in the Congress of Vienna: "If we yield to the claims (for art restitution) of Holland and Belgium, we deprive the Museum of one of its greatest assets, that of having a series of excellent colorists... Russia is not hostile, Austria has had everything returned, Prussia has a restoration more complete.... There remains only England, who has in truth nothing to claim, but who, since she has just bought the bas-reliefs of which Lord Elgin plundered the Temple at Athens, now thinks she can become a rival of the Museum [Louvre], and wants to deplete this Museum in order to collect the remains for her" (Denon to Talleyrand, quoted in Saunier, p. 114; Muintz, in Nouvelle Rev., CVII, 2OI). Vivant Denon uses clearly the verb "plunder" in French.


A portrait depicting the Parthenon Marbles in a temporary Elgin Room at the British Museum surrounded by museum staff, a trustee and visitors, 1819
When the marbles were shipped to England, they were "an instant success among many"[9] who admired the sculptures and supported their arrival, but both the sculptures and Elgin also received criticism from detractors. Lord Elgin began negotiations for the sale of the collection to the British Museum in 1811, but negotiations failed despite the support of British artists after the government showed little interest. Many Britons opposed purchase of the statues because they were in bad condition and therefore did not display the "ideal beauty" found in other sculpture collections. The following years marked an increased interest in classical Greece, and in June 1816, after parliamentary hearings, the House of Commons offered £35,000 in exchange for the sculptures. Even at the time the acquisition inspired much debate, although it was supported by "many persuasive calls" for the purchase.

Lord Byron strongly objected to the removal of the marbles from Greece, denouncing Elgin as a vandal. His point of view about the removal of the Marbles from Athens is also mentioned in his narrative poem Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, published in 1812, which itself was largely inspired by Byron's travels around the Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea between 1809 and 1811:

Dull is the eye that will not weep to see
Thy walls defaced, thy mouldering shrines removed
By British hands, which it had best behoved
To guard those relics ne'er to be restored.
Curst be the hour when from their isle they roved,
And once again thy hapless bosom gored,
And snatch'd thy shrinking gods to northern climes abhorred!

Byron was not the only one to protest against the removal at the time. Sir John Newport said:

The Honourable Lord has taken advantage of the most unjustifiable means and has committed the most flagrant pillages. It was, it seems, fatal that a representative of our country loot those objects that the Turks and other barbarians had considered sacred.

Edward Daniel Clarke witnessed the removal of the metopes and called the action a "spoliation", writing that "thus the form of the temple has sustained a greater injury than it had already experienced from the Venetian artillery," and that "neither was there a workman employed in the undertaking ... who did not express his concern that such havoc should be deemed necessary, after moulds and casts had been already made of all the sculpture which it was designed to remove." When Sir Francis Ronalds visited Athens and Giovanni Battista Lusieri in 1820, he wrote that "If Lord Elgin had possessed real taste in lieu of a covetous spirit he would have done just the reverse of what he has, he would have removed the rubbish and left the antiquities."

A parliamentary committee investigating the situation concluded that the monuments were best given "asylum" under a "free government" such as the British one. In 1810, Elgin published a defence of his actions, but the subject remained controversial. A public debate in Parliament followed Elgin's publication, and Parliament again exonerated Elgin's actions, eventually deciding to purchase the marbles for the "British nation" in 1816 by a vote of 82–30. Among the supporters of Elgin was the painter Benjamin Robert Haydon. He was followed by Felicia Hemans in her Modern Greece: A Poem (1817), who there took direct issue with Byron, defying him with the question

And who may grieve that, rescued from their hands,
Spoilers of excellence and foes of art,
Thy relics, Athens! borne to other lands
Claim homage still to thee from every heart?

and quoting Haydon and other defenders of their accessability in her notes.[56] John Keats visited the British Museum in 1817 and recording his feelings in the sonnet titled "On Seeing the Elgin Marbles. William Wordsworth also viewed the marbles and commented favourably on their aesthetics in a letter to Haydon.

Following the exhibition of the marbles in the British Museum, they were later displayed in the specially constructed Elgin Saloon  until the Duveen Gallery was completed in 1939. The crowds packing in to view them set attendance records for the museum.

Damage
Morosini

East Pediment
Prior damage to the marbles was sustained during successive wars, and it was during such conflicts that the Parthenon and its artwork sustained, by far, the most extensive damage. In particular, an explosion ignited by Venetian gun and cannon-fire bombardment in 1687, whilst the Parthenon was used as a munitions store during the Ottoman rule, destroyed or damaged many pieces of Parthenon art, including some of that later taken by Lord Elgin. It was this explosion that sent the marble roof, most of the cella walls, 14 columns from the north and south peristyles, and carved metopes and frieze blocks flying and crashing to the ground, destroying much of the artwork. Further damage to the Parthenon's artwork occurred when the Venetian general Francesco Morosini looted the site of its larger sculptures. The tackle he was using to remove the sculptures proved to be faulty and snapped, dropping an over-life-sized sculpture of Poseidon and the horses of Athena's chariot from the west pediment on to the rock of the Acropolis 40 feet (12 m) below.

War of Independence
The Erechtheion was used as a munitions store by the Ottomans during the Greek War of Independence (1821–1833) which ended the 355-year Ottoman rule of Athens. The Acropolis was besieged twice during the war, first by the Greeks in 1821–22 and then by the Ottoman forces in 1826–27. During the first siege the besieged Ottoman forces attempted to melt the lead in the columns to cast bullets, even prompting the Greeks to offer their own bullets to the Ottomans in order to minimize damage.

Elgin
Elgin consulted with Italian sculptor Antonio Canova in 1803 about how best to restore the marbles. Canova was considered by some to be the world's best sculptural restorer of the time; Elgin wrote that Canova declined to work on the marbles for fear of damaging them further.

To facilitate transport by Elgin, the columns' capitals and many metopes and frieze slabs were either hacked off the main structure or sawn and sliced into smaller sections, causing irreparable damage to the Parthenon itself.[62][63] One shipload of marbles on board the British brig Mentor was caught in a storm off Cape Matapan in southern Greece and sank near Kythera, but was salvaged at the Earl's personal expense; it took two years to bring them to the surface.

British Museum

The artefacts held in London suffered from 19th-century pollution which persisted until the mid-20th century and have suffered irreparable damage by previous cleaning methods employed by British Museum staff.

As early as 1838, scientist Michael Faraday was asked to provide a solution to the problem of the deteriorating surface of the marbles. The outcome is described in the following excerpt from the letter he sent to Henry Milman, a commissioner for the National Gallery.

The marbles generally were very dirty ... from a deposit of dust and soot. ... I found the body of the marble beneath the surface white. ... The application of water, applied by a sponge or soft cloth, removed the coarsest dirt. ... The use of fine, gritty powder, with the water and rubbing, though it more quickly removed the upper dirt, left much embedded in the cellular surface of the marble. I then applied alkalies, both carbonated and caustic; these quickened the loosening of the surface dirt ... but they fell far short of restoring the marble surface to its proper hue and state of cleanliness. I finally used dilute nitric acid, and even this failed. ... The examination has made me despair of the possibility of presenting the marbles in the British Museum in that state of purity and whiteness which they originally possessed.

A further effort to clean the marbles ensued in 1858. Richard Westmacott, who was appointed superintendent of the "moving and cleaning the sculptures" in 1857, in a letter approved by the British Museum Standing Committee on 13 March 1858 concluded

I think it my duty to say that some of the works are much damaged by ignorant or careless moulding – with oil and lard – and by restorations in wax and resin. These mistakes have caused discolouration. I shall endeavour to remedy this without, however, having recourse to any composition that can injure the surface of the marble.

Yet another effort to clean the marbles occurred in 1937–38. This time the incentive was provided by the construction of a new Gallery to house the collection. The Pentelic marble mined from Mount Pentelicus north of Athens, from which the sculptures are made, naturally acquires a tan colour similar to honey when exposed to air; this colouring is often known as the marble's "patina" but Lord Duveen, who financed the whole undertaking, acting under the misconception that the marbles were originally white probably arranged for the team of masons working in the project to remove discolouration from some of the sculptures. The tools used were seven scrapers, one chisel and a piece of carborundum stone. They are now deposited in the British Museum's Department of Preservation. The cleaning process scraped away some of the detailed tone of many carvings. According to Harold Plenderleith, the surface removed in some places may have been as much as one-tenth of an inch (2.5 mm).

The British Museum has responded with the statement that "mistakes were made at that time." On another occasion it was said that "the damage had been exaggerated for political reasons" and that "the Greeks were guilty of excessive cleaning of the marbles before they were brought to Britain." During the international symposium on the cleaning of the marbles, organised by the British Museum in 1999, curator Ian Jenkins, deputy keeper of Greek and Roman antiquities, remarked that "The British Museum is not infallible, it is not the Pope. Its history has been a series of good intentions marred by the occasional cock-up, and the 1930s cleaning was such a cock-up". Nonetheless, he claimed that the prime cause for the damage inflicted upon the marbles was the 2000-year-long weathering on the Acropolis.

American archeologist Dorothy King, in a newspaper article, wrote that techniques similar to the ones used in 1937–38 were applied by Greeks as well in more recent decades than the British, and maintained that Italians still find them acceptable. The British Museum said that a similar cleaning of the Temple of Hephaestus in the Athenian Agora was carried out by the conservation team of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens in 1953 using steel chisels and brass wire. According to the Greek ministry of Culture, the cleaning was carefully limited to surface salt crusts. The 1953 American report concluded that the techniques applied were aimed at removing the black deposit formed by rain-water and "brought out the high technical quality of the carving" revealing at the same time "a few surviving particles of colour".

Documents released by the British Museum under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that a series of minor accidents, thefts and acts of vandalism by visitors have inflicted further damage to the sculptures. This includes an incident in 1961 when two schoolboys knocked off a part of a centaur's leg. In June 1981, a west pediment figure was slightly chipped by a falling glass skylight, and in 1966 four shallow lines were scratched on the back of one of the figures by vandals. In 1970 letters were scratched on to the upper right thigh of another figure. Four years later, the dowel hole in a centaur's hoof was damaged by thieves trying to extract pieces of lead.

Athens

Air pollution and acid rain have damaged the marble and stonework. The last remaining slabs from the western section of the Parthenon frieze were removed from the monument in 1993 for fear of further damage. They have now been transported to the New Acropolis Museum.

Until cleaning of the remaining marbles was completed in 2005, black crusts and coatings were present on the marble surface. The laser technique applied on the 14 slabs that Elgin did not remove revealed a surprising array of original details, such as the original chisel marks and the veins on the horses' bellies. Similar features in the British Museum collection have been scraped and scrubbed with chisels to make the marbles look white. Between January 20 and the end of March 2008, 4200 items (sculptures, inscriptions small terracotta objects), including some 80 artefacts dismantled from the monuments in recent years, were removed from the old museum on the Acropolis to the new Parthenon Museum. Natural disasters have also affected the Parthenon. In 1981, an earthquake caused damage to the east façade.

Since 1975, Greece has been restoring the Acropolis. This restoration has included replacing the thousands of rusting iron clamps and supports that had previously been used, with non-corrosive titanium rods; removing surviving artwork from the building into storage and subsequently into a new museum built specifically for the display of the Parthenon art; and replacing the artwork with high-quality replicas. This process has come under fire from some groups as some buildings have been completely dismantled, including the dismantling of the Temple of Athena Nike and for the unsightly nature of the site due to the necessary cranes and scaffolding. But the hope is to restore the site to some of its former glory, which may take another 20 years and 70 million euros, though the prospect of the Acropolis being "able to withstand the most extreme weather conditions – earthquakes" is "little consolation to the tourists visiting the Acropolis" according to The Guardian. Under continuous international pressure, Directors of the British Museum have not ruled out agreeing to what they call a "temporary" loan to the new museum, but state that it would be under the condition of Greece acknowledging the British Museum's claims to ownership.