Agreement Revives Fund For Needy Actors, Stage Hands

Attorney General Spitzer today announced an agreement to revive a charitable organization that once served destitute actors and stage hands in New York City.

Under the agreement, the historic John Drew Fund will be reestablished under the Actors Fund of America.

"This agreement will help ensure that the original purpose of the John Drew Fund – to help needy persons associated with the performing arts – is fulfilled," Spitzer said.

The Attorney General’s office began an investigation of the John Drew Fund after allegations arose that The Players, the fund’s founding organization, misappropriated assets from the fund. The Players was formed in 1888 as a theater club by the actor Edwin Booth, brother of actor John Wilkes Booth who assassinated President Lincoln.

Under the terms of the agreement, The Players, without admitting or denying wrongdoing, has repaid $325,000 to the fund, and the fund itself has agreed to dissolve. A plan of dissolution, approved by New York State Supreme Court, required that the fund’s assets be transferred to the Actors’ Fund. The Actors’ Fund has agreed to administer a new "John Drew Fund," and to use the income from the fund to make grants to needy individuals associated with the entertainment industry. The new fund is expected to be operational in early 2006.

This development follows another agreement entered into by the Attorney General in December 2003 with The Players and the Hampden-Booth Theatre Library. That agreement resolved claims that The Players’ board of directors had unduly dominated the affairs of the library and had misappropriated library assets.

The investigation was conducted by Assistant Attorney General Carolyn T. Ellis, with the assistance of Lori Balaklaw, Principal Account, of the Charities Bureau, under the supervision of Dietrich Snell, Deputy Attorney General in charge of the Division of Public Advocacy.

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