Grant Oliphant

With two weeks to go before a trial concerning the validity of deed covenants restricting the sale of the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, the group of foundations opposed to the sale released a statement outlining why its $7.2 million “standby bid” is superior than the $9.5 million bid by 980 Liberty Partners, which plans to build a hotel above the bankrupt center.

Heinz Endowments President Grant Oliphant reiterated some of the same points while slamming the 980 Liberty Partners’ bid in an op-ed piece published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Simultaneously, Heinz separately filed a petition with the court demanding the return of a $500,000 endowment grant it awarded the center in 2007. The filing argues that a requirement for receiving the grant was that it be returned if the center were to cease operations “for any reason.”

Communications Director John Ellis, who like Oliphant recently moved to Heinz from the Pittsburgh Foundation, said Heinz was forced to file the petition because it had previously asked for the grant to be returned and was denied by court appointed receiver Judith Fitzgerald.

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