An ENO spokesman couldn't confirm the donation, but told PlaybillArts that the 63-year-old tycoon will be supporting future productions at London's Coliseum Theatre, including Offenbach's La Belle H_lne and Puccini's Madame Butterfly, scheduled for March and April 2006, respectively.
Laidlaw made his fortune with an events, conference, and newsletter business which he founded over 30 years ago and sold last summer for Ô£768 million. His stake was a reported Ô£714 million. Even before the sale, the London Sunday Times named him the 101st richest person in Britain, worth an estimated Ô£499 million.
Laidlaw has also been an active contributor to Britain's Conservative Party, and was made a life peer in 2004.
The ENO has been through a rough patch recently; the company lost its chairman, chief executive, and music director over the past three months; it barely avoided a staff strike; and is plagued by severe financial problems. The company recently appointed John Berry artistic director; it is still searching for a new music director and chairman.
Laidlaw's donation, if is confirmed, would be timely, as the furniture group MFI has completed its Ô£300,000 sponsorship of Wagner's Ring cycle. Sky Television will provide Ô£5 million over six years from 2003 to 2009.