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Pasadena Chamber's Chief Takes New Post

May 05, 1985|DEBORAH HASTINGS | Times Staff Writer

Rolfe Arnhym, the controversial executive vice president of the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce and the driving force behind bringing the financially ill-fated 1983 Army-Navy game to this city, has announced that he will resign his post on May 15.

Arnhym, 54, said he is leaving Pasadena to become executive vice president of the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce because it is "an offer that I just can't resist." That offer, he said, includes a $35,000-a-year increase in benefits and salary over his present yearly income of $55,000 from the Pasadena chamber.

In resigning, Arnhym leaves behind the $2.5-million debt incurred by the Army-Navy '83 Foundation, which he helped form in order to bring the annual Army-Navy football game to the Rose Bowl in November, 1983.

And while Arnhym said last week that his decision to resign had nothing to do with the problems of the indebted foundation, he admitted that the controversy surrounding it had upset him and affected his reputation in Pasadena.

"I think that there are a number of people who will cast rocks, harpoons, or any other sharp object in my direction because it (the game) did not succeed financially," Arnhym said. "I guess that's an unfortunate fact of life. I find it very hurtful.

"The tragedy is," he continued, "that financially, and for reasons for which we had no control, it just did not work. There are a lot of people who just do not see the positive."

Foundation President Robert H. Finch, a former lieutenant governor of California and a U.S. secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under President Richard Nixon, agreed.

"While he was not universally accepted as 'Mr. Charm,' he really did put the chamber on the map," Finch said of Arnhym last week. "Even those who felt that he was a little brusque would concede that.

"It's a massive increase in salary and responsibility," Finch said of Arnhym's new job. "And it's quite a promotion."

Attempts to reach Marv Haney, president of the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce, for comment on how Arnhym was selected for his new post, were unsuccessful.

The foundation's debts, which are now more than a year old, include $581,000 owed to the Army and Navy academies and a $1.1-million bank loan for which the Naval Academy posted $550,000 collateral. The foundation owes $174,000 to the City of Pasadena for rental of the Rose Bowl, and the remaining money is owed to a handful of private firms who supplied services for the game.

According to Arnhym, a number of factors contributed to the financial failure of the game. A 10-month investigation by the federal General Accounting Office into alleged misuse of tax funds for the game provided no conclusive findings of any such misuse, but cost the foundation $650,000 in corporate pledges, Arnhym said. The investigation scared off a variety of corporations that had promised contributions to the foundation, he said.

Adding to that was a last-minute change of dates to accommodate television coverage of the game, Arnhym added. The scheduling change caused the game to fall 14,000 tickets short of a sellout, and resulted in a tremendous boost in air fares for the 9,000 students flown out for the game. Previously negotiated fares were raised to the prime rate.

Since late last year, the foundation has pinned its last hope for repaying its debts on requests to two Olympic committees for a share of the more than $200 million left over from the 1984 Summer Games.

But a bail-out from either the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee or the U.S. Olympic Committee has yet to materialize.

"There is some indication that our chances are fairly slim," Arnhym said. LAOOC general manager Harry Usher has also said that the foundation would have a hard time qualifying for a share of the surplus, even under the "most rudimentary criteria," because the money has been earmarked for amateur athletic organizations in Southern California.

According to Arnhym, there is little left for the foundation to do except to wait for word from the Olympic committees. "The work of the foundation is essentially done," he said. "We have taken all the action we can take."

After his departure from Pasadena, Arnhym said, foundation president Finch will handle the organization's affairs.

"There's really not that much to do," Finch said last week. "It's just a matter of taking whatever money may come in and dividing it equitably between the creditors."

Ron Glazer, who produced several entertainment programs for the Army-Navy game and says the foundation owes him $55,000, had a suggestion for repaying the debts when asked about Arnhym's resignation last week.

"Maybe he could donate the difference between his new salary and the one in Pasadena toward repaying some of the debts of the Army-Navy Foundation, of which he played a large part in establishing," Glazer said.

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