As Kenneth Cole Prepares to Exit, amfAR Tries to Regroup

As Kenneth Cole Prepares to Exit, amfAR Tries to Regroup
From WWD - February 8, 2018

A day after Kenneth Cole revealed he would be stepping down as amfAR chairman at the AIDS-fighting nonprofits New York gala, his tenure continued to spark debate.

Having served on the board for more than 30 years and led it for 14, Cole has helped to raise hundreds of millions of dollars over the years. But his leadership and the amfAR board came under fire last yearfollowing an inter-member rift triggeredby a questionable deal with the disgracedHarvey Weinstein. The controversy triggered a decline in fund-raising. Meanwhile, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneidermans office listed a number of governance issues it wanted the organization to deal with, including board member term limits.

Cole declined to comment Thursday, but amfAR released a statement highlighting some of the changes approved at Wednesdays board meeting. The statement referenced a series of reforms that will enable the foundation to continue to operate at the highest standards of governance.In addition to Cole, the term limits of Donald Capoccia; Vincent Roberti; Mervyn F. Silverman, M.D.; M.P.H., and John Simons have run out and they are exiting as well.

Recognizing that the recruitment of new trustees is essential to the foundations continuing evolution and progress, the board voted unanimously to implement term limits for trustees. The trustees whose terms were expiring at this meeting and who had served longer than the term limits adopted, graciously agreed to rotate off the board after serving the foundation with distinction, the statement read. We are very grateful to these five trustees for their years of service on the board, and especially appreciative of our chair, Kenneth Cole, who has served this organization for 30 years with extraordinary dedication. Under his leadership we have raised hundreds of millions of dollars for AIDS research, had a profound impact on millions of peoples lives, and gotten closer to our ultimate goal of finding a cure for this insidious disease.

In a letter posted on POZ on Thursday, Jonathan Canno, one of the founding amfAR board members, challenged media reports that made it appear that Cole had stepped down of his own volition. He said one of the new governance changes in the attorney generals letter was that Cole had to leave one way or the other at Wednesdays board meeting. Canno wrote, I can tell you a root canal would have been more pleasant than that meeting.

WhileSchneidermans call for mandated term limits got rid of some Cole sycophants like [Capoccia] and two others, Canno wrote that two absolutely irreplaceable board membersSilverman and head of fund development Robertiwere also rotated out, he said. Roberti did a spectacular job and the attorney general never would have known or done anything about Kenneths misdeeds and cost to the foundation had it not been for Vin, Canno wrote.

From his standpoint, most of the remaining eight are antagonistic to him and Arlen Andelson, and two of them are retreads from the past including one who is 92 (and didnt attend board meetings when he was 82.)

Bill Roedy is said to be serving as amfARs acting chair.

Capoccia praised Cole Thursday, saying, The work that Kenneth did over those 14 years as chair was pretty extraordinary. I know theres been a lot of controversy over the last year, but that cant possibly trump the good that he has done for the organization for the 14 years before that. I believe that from my core.


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