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Who hijacked the Amati Foundation eBay account?


dfowler1685
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Did anyone notice and possibly bid on any of the bows or violins recently sold on eBay by the Amati Foundation? I did and sent a check to them at a PO box in Austin, TX. Now I've received emails from "Liz" at the Amati Foundation saying their account was hijacked and from eBay saying not to send any money to the vendor. Hmmm....

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I don't know the whole story, but I beleive the "Amati Foundation" was started by Bill Townsend. He made big bucks in some tech business and then decided to make violins (until the money runs out? :&gt ). What the Amati Foundation is, and what its mission is, I don't know.

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I bid on that Townsend violin also, but didn't win. I believe William Townsend created the Amati Foundation. This seems to be a legitimate group. Too bad if a seller of valid merchandise gets discredited by some imposter. And really too bad if the imposter got my money order for an early Christmas gift. I don't think that happened -- but I'd like to know more about what happened. "Violin Fraud" by Brian W. Harvey, Carla J. Shapreau, is an interesting book, by the way, if you need something to read while you wait to see if your eBay purchase will arrive.

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Somebody hijacked my ebay account a week ago. Fortunately, ebay lets you know when your account parameters are changed, and I saw the email right away, notified ebay, and used the changed parameters to change it all back, though of course with a different password. I gather this is not so rare, and is why ebay suggests that you use a fairly complex password.

Rich

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I've seen articles on the Amati Foundation and Bill Townsend. Seemed, as was said below, he made a mint in tech development then sold out and retired before the bust. On top of that, he decides to learn violin, buys a cheap fiddle at an estate/yard sale (I forget which) and it turns out to be a genuine Andre Amati worth $500,000 (why does this happen to rich people?). This inspires him to commission "new" replicas of great violins, no antiquing, loan then out for a year at a time to students, then "proof" them against the originals. The idea being to show that we can (and I suppose do) still build violins as good as Stradivari, and the better sound (as opposed to a new violin as well made) comes from ageing.

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This afternoon I received a personal call from Bill Townsend, offering to refund the money order I sent for my eBay purchase. My perception of this is:


1. The Amati Foundation is legitimate.

2. Their auction on eBay was a legitimate deal.

3. At the close of the auction, someone sent messages to the winners asking them to use PayPal. (The original auction asked for money order or cashiers check only.)

4. eBay then shut everything down until the events could be straightened out.


I told Mr. Townsend I would stick with my purchase (three bows).

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From what I understand, his strong suit was marketing, internet marketing more specifically. I would imagine any of his roles at these companies, no matter what the title, would be more of an advisor. He seems to be involved in so many things that I can hardly believe that he would have a very active role in all of these ventures.

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In browsing through the listings of the violins and bows in

question while still active,( they can  no longer be found in

recent listing searches- I guess because of the problems) they

looked to me to be high end, new Chinese items. In the bow

listings, there may have been some reference to them being new and

"in the style of", but I don't  think there was any such

disclaimer for the violins. I also remember the "Amati

Foundation" listing quite a few older instruments last year but

those sales are not reflected in feedback. Maybe none met

reserves ?

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I'm dismissing neither the existence or motives of the Amati Foundation or Mr. Townsend...like "apartmentluthier" I found the auctions a bit "fishy" and decided to do some investigating -- I presumed at the time that the sellers were in fact the foundation and/or Townsend...regardless, the information provided on the Amati website made them sound a bit "fishy" to me...they supposedly have commissioned all these violins but don't say when they'll be available...there are supposed to be all these big events promoting their work and these instruments but don't say when or where they'll take place...they try to talk you into a $150,000 donation to be a "patron" for an instrument but say the instrument won't be available to loan until TEN YEARS later...their address is a post office box...there is no mention of there being any board of directors...and the only instrument they appear to have actually loaned is one Townsend made for some central Texas violin competition...just seems like a lot of smoke but very little fire to me.

And then there is Mr. Townsend working at Sodalis Technologies -- I'm quite sure that's his mug in the photograph displayed on their website...and that job description as vice-president of marketing -- he's listed as the person to contact for "media inquiries" -- sounds like an old fashioned 40 hour a week deal and not just a consultant...certainly doesn't sound like the kind of job a multimillionaire would want to latch onto...and he doesn't even mention the job in his profile on his website...however, he does mention being involved in several other activities...for example, he claims to be cofounder and chief marketing officer of something called "MagicLumen Productions" which allegedly produces a TV show called "Treasur'd Instruments"...but as hard as I tried I simply couldn't find a bit of information on that company or its TV program...he also says he's a partner at "Arbor Austin rare instrument equity fund"...I couldn't find anything info about them either...and he says he's chairman of "Dorio"-- a company which operates a website called "onlinerepertorytheater.com"...well, that website does exist but take a look at it and see if you can figure out where they are, how they're organized or what exactly they are supposed to be doing -- I couldn't...I dunno, maybe I'm overly suspicious but it just all seems kinda "fishy."

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  • 2 weeks later...

Boy, you folks have been busy. I would like to straighten some of this confusion out if you'll let me.

I have founded or cofounded over 20 companies during my career. Sodalis Technologies was a spinoff of CommonPlaces, which Ben Bassi (one of my partners at search engine Lycos) and I started in 1998. CommonPlaces and Sodalis became YouthStream Media Networks, a publicly-held company which eventually became Alloy. The site one of your found about Sodalis is from several years ago and is part of Avi Cohen's (aviously) online portfolio. Avi is a web developer/designer who worked for us.

The Amati Foundation was started in 2000. We have three primary goals: creation of The Historical Collection, an educational program, and a loan program. A subset program is the KMFA violin program where we loan a violin I made and donated to a Central Texas based high school junior each year.

Let's start with the loan program. We've placed over 30 instruments so far with the most valuable being an 1835 Georges Chanot to a 15 year old in Florida. His picture is featured on our website at http://www.amatifoundation.org. We have 22 other requests for instruments. Ususally someone donates an instrument and we place it with the appropriate student. We don't seek publicity for this unless the donor allows us. More often than not, the donor does not want publicity.

The education program was designed to place a program into three schools, utilizing one teacher. We supply all the materials, instruments, and underwrite the entire cost of the program. This costs about $22,000 per school per year. We beta tested this program and are currently reworking some elements to incorporate a stronger and more personalized online component. Once that is completed, we hope to make the online component available to any school in America that wants to utilize it.

The Historical Collection is a 20+ year program that has been 5 years in development and has cost more money than you can imagine...all underwritten by me, not the Foundation contributors. We've identified and invited over 30 makers to particpate. They will be paid for their instruments. Joe Robson of Tried & True Varnish is donating varnish to the makers. Eric Meyer will make the fittings. We're currently in discussions with several Fortune 500 companies to land a title sponsor.

The purpose of the Historical Collection is to provide orchestras a means to attract new patrons; to bring 250,000 students out to witness live orchestral events; to put the instruments of contemporary makers into the hands of today's top professionals for "trial"; and to measure and research the wear of a suite of instruments over many years with hopes of identifying ways to improve the craft.

As for Raymanrmd123's comments, you didn't read our website very closely nor did you apparently download the PDFs. The instruments to be built will be loaned to orchestras the first 8 years and then beginning in year 10 go to individual musicians. The $150,000 donation/sponsorship covers the costs of a 20 year program, not just the building of an instrument. As for myself, I have many companies in which I'm involved with that are developing technologies or products. MagicLumen has developed a TV show that focuses on the interplay between musician and instrument (think about BBKing and his Lucille Gibson guitar or Eric Clapton and his Blackie Fender Stratocaster). The show is in development and not on television yet. Dorio is developing OnlineRepertoryTheater.com and is a privately backed company. Visit our site and look at the people associated with this endeavor -- they are a Who's Who of theater professionals. I bring the marketing and business side to the equation. I have holdings in companies like Pay By Touch, Interminds, Supermodel.com, and others. My portfolio of holdings is large and I find myself typically working 70+ hour weeks, yet I still find time to donate to classical music organizations and sit on the board of KMFA, a nonprofit classical radio station. I also donate up to 30% of my assets to charities each year, far more than the average person.

Many people who had financial success in the dotcom era are committed to doing something good with our funds. One of the things I did was commission a research study in the US and European Union to help the classical industry understand consumer attitudes toward attending orchestras. The results of this 3 year, $$$$$ study are scheduled to appear in The Strad in February 2006.

We receive instruments almost every other week from people who are interested in supporting The Amati Foundation. Most of the time we are given the right to loan, sell, or preserve the instrument. We have found ebay to be a good place to sell these instruments and in the past have sold many through that site. We had an issue with our account this November and, as is ebay policy, the auctions were cancelled and the account closed down until everything can be cleared up. Any associated accounts -- ususally meaning those that have similar address or credit card -- is also suspended to avoid fraud. That means my personal accounts were closed as well.

I called every winning bidder for whom I had a telephone number and informed them of the problem. Nearly everyone continued with their purchase and all should have received their violins or bows by now. The funds we raise from these auctions help us support our education and loan programs. The winning bidders receive a nice tax deduction and the Foundation is able to do something with instruments that are donated to us.

Whether or not you wish to support what I've attempted to create is a person's personal choice. I only ask that if you have a question about The Amati Foundation, why not send an e-mail or call us instead of engaging in conjecture?

Bill Townsend

Chairman

The Amati Foundation

www.amatifoundation.org

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