EXCLUSIVE: Robert Hunter and Diane Ladd want to raise $150 million to construct a new facility on the Woodland Hills facility
A proposal to build a new independently funded hospital to replace the beleaguered long-term care center at the Motion Picture and Television Fund’s Woodland Hills facility is being hailed by MPTF critics.
Under the plan, a new 250-bed facility would be constructed on 17 acres of the MPTF’s land. It is the brainchild of Robert Hunter, a former PepsiCo. executive, and his wife, actress Diane Ladd (below right).
The new facility would be named the ACT Home, as a nod to the Art And Culture Task Force, the arts education charity the couple heads up.
The pair went public with the proposal during a fundraiser earlier this month for the grassroots group Saving the Lives of Our Own at the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center. The group has been protesting the current long-term care facility’s impending closure since it was announced in January 2009.
"The MPTF has abandoned the charter promising to take care of our own,” Hunter told TheWrap. “The challenge now is to educate people about this and take those folks who have been on the sidelines and get them involved. We’ve found a solution to the problem, we just need to make it work.”
Hunter did not seem interested in partnering with the MPTF over the long run. He believes that maintaining the hospital’s independence is essential to ensuring its survival.
“I don’t want to be in a position that down the road the MPTF can close the door like they have before,” Hunter said. “If we do this economically then we don’t need their help."
Reaction among the over 200 people at the fundraiser to Ladd’s surprise announcement was enthusiastic.
“It gave me a lot of hope,” said Nila Neukum, whose 89-year old father is an Alzheimer’s patient on the campus. “Everybody was really excited that there was still a conversation going on, and that it’s not seen as a done deal.”
Still, some worried that the new facility will only happen if it gets the MPTF’s blessing.
“Any plan to prevent closure of the nursing home requires the total commitment and full cooperation of the MPTF in order to succeed," said Melody Sherwood, whose 95-year old mother is a long-term care patient on the campus. "So far the board has not reversed its decision to close the facility nor given any indication that it wants to continue operating the nursing home.”
And making it work will be no easy task. The project is a scalable, but it’s still enormously costly. According to a feasibility study that Ladd and Hunter commissioned from a research company in Arizona, the group will need to raise $120 million to build the facility. They also hope to raise an additional $30 million to establish an endowment.
A more economical version would only house 99 patients and would cost on the magnitude of $70 to $80 million.
Fundraising has yet to begin in earnest, and no substantial money has been raised thus far. That’s a stumbling block for the MPTF board.
Roughly three weeks ago, Hunter met with MPTF CEO Bob Beitcher and the Motion Picture Television Foundation CEO Ken Scherer about the study. At that meeting, Hunter asked for the MPTF to commit to giving land to the project. However, Scherer and Beitcher said for any agreement to take place, Hunter would first have to present evidence of serious financial backing, according to MPTF spokesperson Steve Honig.
Honig says Hunter has yet to submit a concrete plan for raising the money.
“We have many different people who have all been raising money for a lot of different things, and we need to work with all these different groups to coalesce our fundraising so we make sure that we are making one ask,” Hunter said. “That’s going to take some time.”
First step will be creating a promotional DVD about the project that Hunter said he hopes to have ready by next month. He said that he and others have already been reaching out to moguls and philanthropists like Bill and Melinda Gates and Ted Turner to see if they’d be willing to help support the project.
No word yet from the folks who write the big checks, but the various grassroots organizations that have formed in the wake of the MPTF’s decision to close the hospital are willing to work with Hunter.
“We are happy to work with anyone on fulfilling the original goals and the historic commitment of the MPTF,” Nancy Biederman, co-founder of Saving the Lives of Our Own, told TheWrap.