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Arco Takes Stand on Discrimination in Clubs

June 05, 1986|DAVID JOHNSTON | Times Staff Writer

The chairman of Atlantic Richfield Co. has decided that the firm will no longer reimburse executives for memberships in discriminatory private clubs.

Two officials of Arco, the largest corporation in Southern California, said Wednesday the company's new policy affects about 30 executives who belong to the California and Jonathan clubs in Los Angeles and the Dallas Petroleum Club.

Lodwrick M. Cook, Arco's chairman and chief executive officer, did not specifically identify any private clubs in his May 28 memo, which referred only to discriminatory policies.

"Obviously, individuals may join or continue membership in these clubs at their own expense, as a matter of personal choice," Cook wrote. "However, each city in which these clubs are located has sufficient alternative choices of club membership."

Cook added that Arco has a list of clubs it considers to be non-discriminatory.

"It is my hope that this new policy will send a positive message to others of Arco's commitment to all members of society," he wrote.

A recent Times survey of 23 other major California corporations showed that only one, BankAmerica Corp., will not reimburse executives for expenses at clubs that discriminate.

Members of the California and Jonathan Clubs said their by-laws do not contain any restrictions on the sex, race or religion of members. However, these members added that neither club has black members and that each has only token numbers of Asian, Latino and Jewish members. Neither club has women as regular members.

Richard P. Miller Jr., president of the California Club, did not respond to a request for an interview.

Jonathan Club President Donald E. Butler, said Cook's decision "is unfortunate in the fact that it goes on a basic assumption, which is that certain clubs discriminate. I don't know how they do that. There is nothing in our policies that in any way discriminates."

Butler said he did not know if the Jonathan Club has any black members, but he was certain there are Latino, Asian and Jewish members, although he did not know how many.

"We certainly have women members," he said, explaining that these include widows of members who retain some club privileges. He said to his knowledge no women have been admitted as regular members in their own right.

Gunther Weihe, manager of the Dallas Petroleum Club in Texas, hung up the phone when asked by a reporter about the club's membership policies.

Cook's decision follows a decade of internal debate at Arco over the ethics of the firm's executives belonging to clubs that discriminate. Company founder Robert O. Anderson often emphasized ethics and moral leadership to his executives.

Thornton Bradshaw, Arco's former president and now chairman of RCA, once spoke at a private California Club meeting against "the club's policy of admitting only white Christian males," said James O'Toole, a USC business professor and former Arco trainer.

In his book, "Vanguard Management," O'Toole wrote that Bradshaw's exercise of "moral leadership . . . alienated him not only from the club's membership but also from the city's power elite . . . Bradshaw paid a heavy price for his courageous leadership when a group of California Club members who were also USC trustees vetoed his already publicly announced appointment to the presidency" of the university.

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Joy Picus, an outspoken critic of sex and race discrimination by influential Los Angeles residents, also praised Cook's decision.

"Arco has long been a leader in this city in many things, including social policies, and I hope that other large and small corporations and businesses will follow their lead," she said.

Cook said initiation fees for the affected clubs would not be paid after Aug. 1 and that monthly dues and expenses, such as meals, would not be reimbursed after Jan. 1.

An Arco spokesman, asked about the six month delay in cutting off reimbursement for monthly dues and expenses at the affected clubs, noted that the policy would not take effect if the clubs change their policies by then.

Times intern Karen Laviola contributed to this article.

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