The New York Philharmonic, the nation's oldest symphony orchestra, will leave Lincoln Center for Carnegie Hall in a merger of renowned U.S. cultural institutions, the New York Times reports.

The New York Philharmonic, the nation's oldest symphony orchestra, will leave Lincoln Center for Carnegie Hall in a merger of renowned U.S. cultural institutions, the New York Times reports.

The Philharmonic, the first cultural institution established at Lincoln Center, would become a managing partner of Carnegie Hall, the paper reports, citing officials at the organizations. The move, it said, could come as soon as 2006, and the Philharmonic and Carnegie Hall will have a combined endowment of about $350 million.

The agreement apparently caught Lincoln Center off guard when it was informed on Thursday about plans for the departure of the Philharmonic, according to the Times. Martin Segal, a chairman emeritus of Lincoln Center, told the paper that the merger was "a form of cultural cannibalism."

The move gives the Philharmonic the world-class acoustics of Carnegie Hall in exchange for what the Times calls "flawed" sound at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall.

The merger would also bring together two giants of the U.S. financial services industry. The chairman of Carnegie Hall is Citigroup Inc. chairman Sanford Weill. The chairman of the Philharmonic is Paul Guenther, the former president of U.S. broker PaineWebber Group, now a unit of UBS AG.

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