Bloomberg News

Ackman’s Pershing Square Gives $25 Million to Signature Theatre

January 29, 2012

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Jan. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Hedge fund manager William Ackman donated $25 million to New York’s nonprofit Signature Theatre, which said it will rename its new, Frank Gehry-designed off- Broadway complex after his foundation.

The “Pershing Square Signature Center” is scheduled to open on Tuesday with three theaters, two rehearsal studios and public space on W. 42nd Street, between Ninth and Tenth Avenues. Ackman, 45, is chief executive and founder of Pershing Square Capital Management LP.

Signature Artistic Director James Houghton said in an interview that the money will help it sell $25 tickets to initial runs of its productions for a decade. The Signature will keep prices “accessible” for at least another decade after that, he said, leaving the door open for a price increase.

“It depends how inflation and the world operate,” Houghton, 53, said, adding that the ticket prices will remain equivalent to a movie, popcorn and a soda.

Signature specializes in presenting multiple works by a playwright. Houghton and Edward Norton, the actor and co- chairman of Signature’s capital campaign, first met with Ackman in mid-2011.

“The two of us talked about what we’re doing,” Houghton said. “He was energized and interested.”

The gift is the Pershing Square Foundation’s largest to an arts nonprofit and the largest the Signature received from an individual or foundation, according to Houghton and a joint press release.

“Signature has made a remarkable contribution to the cultural life of New York,” Ackman said in a statement. He started the foundation in 2006 with his wife, Karen.

“We are especially pleased to support their groundbreaking program to provide access to great theater, which we see as an investment in New York and the theater community that will pay dividends for generations to come,” the statement said. A spokesman said he wasn’t immediately available.

Ackman is currently involved in a proxy battle with Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd., where Pershing Square is the largest shareholder. Pershing also holds a major stake in J.C. Penney.

Part of the Ackman donation goes toward a $70 million capital campaign. Houghton said Signature has raised about $58 million so far.

Although the complex itself and some of its spaces are accounted for, “we still have plenty of things people can name,” Houghton said.

--Editors: Jeremy Gerard, Laurie Muchnick.

To contact the writer of this column: Philip Boroff in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at

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