The Central City Opera in Wheat Ridge lost an influential and longtime member when J. Landis Martin died Sept. 1. He was the president of Central City Opera’s Endowment Fund Board, a longtime …
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The Central City Opera in Wheat Ridge lost an influential and longtime member when J. Landis Martin died Sept. 1. He was the president of Central City Opera’s Endowment Fund Board, a longtime member of the Opera’s leadership, a benefactor and a patron.
A recent announcement from the Opera recognized Martin’s importance to the organization.
“His remarkable leadership, generosity and foresight from early years on the Board of Directors, to his role as Chair, and in establishing the Central City Opera Endowment Fund, have been instrumental in the organization's continued existence and ongoing success,” the announcement said.
Martin was actually responsible for the fund, according to Scott Finlay, Central City Opera’s chief external affairs officer. Finlay said that Martin had a vision for a way to keep the Opera going when times got really hard for the arts.
“Lanny's involvement with Central City Opera is the very reason that we exist today on a number of different levels,” Finlay said. “Of course, his generosity to the organization itself was important, but his leadership and his vision were also instrumental in putting us on the map and keeping us there.”
Finlay said Martin used his vision from the business world to help the Opera.
Platte River Equity Fund was a company that Landis started in 2006. According to the company website, Martin served as CEO to three industrial companies for 18 years.
“Lanny was Chairman and CEO of Titanium Metals Corporation (TIMET) (formerly NYSE: TIE),” the website stated. “In addition, Lanny was CEO of NL Industries, Inc., a specialty chemical producer, and Baroid Corporation, a diversified oilfield service business, which is now part of Halliburton. Prior to NL Industries, Inc., he was a partner of the Kirkland & Ellis law firm.”
Martin brought all of that experience to the fifth-oldest opera company in the U.S.
“Central City Opera is a 91-year-old organization,” Finlay said. “So, it has a lot of history behind it. That had to be honored.”
However, Martin was a forward thinker.
“Lanny always pushed forward with (questions like), ‘Where do we go next? What do we do to keep Central City Opera out in the forefront?’” Finlay said. “I think that some instrumental leadership and his generosity made that possible.”
Finlay was referring to the monumental deal that turned the financial tides for the Opera in the early 90s. The state of Colorado legalized gambling in 1991. Around the same time, according to Finlay, Martin had a vision of a way to set the Opera up for the future.
“So, Lanny negotiated with a Swiss gaming firm, who came in and put one of the first casinos in Colorado into the Teller House,” Finlay said. “They did all the improvements on the teller, the Teller House is an old hotel, that's right next door to the opera house.”
The lease agreement itself brought millions of dollars into the organization, which was then put into an endowment fund, Finlay explained.
The Central City Opera’s Endowment Fund is a nonprofit that is also a separate entity from the Opera. Finlay said that the Opera has to apply for funding like other arts organizations.
“He (Martin) created this endowment fund for us that has seen us through a lot of really tough times,” Finlay said.
Several members of the Opera community expressed their gratitude for Martin and his work to help the Opera.
“It is an immense loss to all of us who love and have enjoyed Central City Opera for the last several decades,” said James R. Hilger, Jr. of the Central City Opera Honorary Board. “Lanny, with Sharon (Martin’s wife), was a superb and wise leader in business and the arts, a perfect gentleman, and the most generous benefactor in our history. We have had many splendid past leaders, but Central City Opera exists to this day because of the years of support and planning that Lanny and Sharon have provided.”
Learn more about the Central City Opera and J. Landis Martin at CentralCityOpera.org. You can also check out this tribute video that the Opera created.
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