Times Staff Writer

An Orange County Performing Arts Center recruitment panel has made its choice for the Center’s new executive director, but negotiations could delay the contract signing for up to three weeks, Center board President William Lund said Thursday.

Lund refused to name the panel-recommended candidate to succeed Len Bedsow, who is retiring as the Center’s chief administrator, except to say “he’s a working administrator at a major (arts) complex, like everyone else that we’ve interviewed in the past four months.”

Final action, he said, is still subject to approval by the Center’s full board. “We wish we were ready to announce because we would like to have someone on board as soon as possible,” Lund added, “but these things take time, and this is a highly sensitive situation. We’re talking about top-flight talent who have other jobs right now and other bosses.”

Although Lund said last December that the candidate field had been narrowed to three finalists and that a choice would be announced by mid-January, he later said that additional candidates were being interviewed or reconsidered.


The nationwide search was conducted by a seven-member panel headed by Lund and assisted by the Harrison Price Co. of Los Angeles, who are planning and management consultants; and by William Severns, longtime chief administrator of the Los Angeles Music Center who recently retired. The choice, Lund said, was made from a relatively “small circle” of administrators of major performing arts complexes. “There isn’t an especially large field from which to pick the best talent--this is a relatively young (administrative) field in America, you know.”

According to sources close to the search, among the 14 administrators approached last fall were Thomas Kendrick, operations director at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington; Wayne Shilkret, performing arts director at the Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena, and Lawrence Wilker, president of the Playhouse Square theatrical complex in Cleveland.

Bedsow, a former Los Angeles Civic Light Opera general manager, was hired four years ago as the Orange County Center’s first executive director. Lund said Bedsow, 67, was hired with the understanding that he would serve as chief administrator during the Center’s starting-up period but that another administrator would be brought in to run the Center after it opened in fall, 1986. Bedsow announced last June that he would retire earlier --at the end of 1984.

The Orange County Center, which is to have two major theaters when it is completed, is one of the largest such complexes to be built in the United States in the past decade and the only one to be fully financed by private monies. More than $60 million has been raised: $44 million for the $65.5 million needed to build the Center and $16 million for a $20-million endowment fund.


The Center’s 3,000-seat main theater, now under construction at the South Coast Plaza Town Center site in Costa Mesa, is scheduled to open in October, 1986.

Bedsow said the Los Angeles Philharmonic is expected to play during the first two weeks of the opening season, and that other organizations participating in “serious negotiations” are the New York City Opera Company for a six-week run in early 1987 and the American Ballet Theatre for fall 1986 appearances.