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MOCA accepts Broad's lifeline, appoints CEO

December 23, 2008|Diane Haithman

After weeks of conjecture, the board of the financially strapped Museum of Contemporary Art has voted to accept a $30-million bailout offer from billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad, a founder and life trustee of the museum and the city's largest arts patron.

In addition, MOCA's beleaguered director, Jeremy Strick, has resigned and MOCA has appointed UCLA Chancellor Emeritus Charles E. Young as the museum's first chief executive.

The Broad deal, to be announced today, ends speculation that the museum might opt to accept a merger offer made last week by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

According to the agreement, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation will match contributions to MOCA's endowment up to $15 million and provide $3 million a year for exhibition support for five years.

In an interview Monday, Broad, a staunch downtown supporter, said he made his offer because it would be a "real blow to this city" if the downtown museum, a linchpin of the planned Grand Avenue redevelopment, did not survive.

Broad said that he was not requiring MOCA to raise $15 million in matching funds in order to receive the $15-million challenge grant but rather would match endowment funds "dollar for dollar" with what MOCA was able to raise from trustees and others, with a cap of $15 million.

"It's very simple -- they raise a dollar, the foundation puts in a dollar," Broad said.

The agreement also includes a 90-day window to "allow any responsible party to replace the Broad Foundation on identical terms."

In an interview Monday, MOCA board co-chairmen Tom Unterman and David G. Johnson said that museum trustees had pledged or promised more than $20 million in new gifts since the museum's financial troubles became public in November. The executives declined to name specific board members who were planning donations.

Broad's agreement calls for MOCA to "continue operating as an independent world-class contemporary art museum" and to maintain both its headquarters on Grand Avenue and the Geffen Contemporary space in Little Tokyo. The plan requires MOCA to "keep its collection intact and not sell any works of art."

The agreement also requires MOCA to operate with an annual budget of "no less than $13 million and no more than $16 million in cash expenses" but says that the museum may operate at a higher level if it has the cash income to do so. In recent years, the museum's budget has averaged $20 million, Unterman said.

Broad said that he did not demand the resignation of Strick or the appointment of Young in order for MOCA to accept his challenge grant, although he supported both decisions and was consulted about the choice of Young.

Through a spokeswoman, Strick, who led the museum for nine years, declined to comment.

During his tenure, Strick presided over financial shortfalls that resulted in the museum's dipping into funds from "restricted" accounts.

"We're a donor -- we're not on the board, we're not running MOCA in any way, shape or form," Broad said of his charitable foundation.

Broad's decision to make the $30-million offer to MOCA in November pitted the city's most powerful arts patron against LACMA, which houses the largest art collection west of the Mississippi.

Broad, who funded the $56-million Broad Contemporary Art Museum on the LACMA campus, dashed the county museum's hopes of acquiring his extensive private collection of contemporary art when he disclosed plans in January to instead retain his holdings for loan to multiple museums. He said Monday that he perceived no rift between himself and LACMA and would continue to support both the county museum and MOCA.

Unterman said Young was being given the title "chief executive officer" rather than director because Young is expected to oversee the museum's business operations rather than make artistic decisions.

"Chuck Young is a very distinguished leader and fills many roles, but he would be the first person to say that he is not a person of the art world," Unterman said. "We didn't want to connote that he is going to be the next director of the museum."

Young will work in tandem with a newly appointed advisory committee of arts leaders, including John R. Lane, president and chief executive of the New Art Trust and director emeritus of the Dallas Museum of Art; Warhol Foundation President Joel Wachs; John Walsh, director emeritus of the J. Paul Getty Museum; and financial advisor Gary Cypres. A successor to Strick has not been named.

Broad, 75, made his initial fortune in real estate through Kaufman & Broad, now KB Home. He also founded and led SunAmerica, now a subsidiary of American International Group, until 2000, when he stepped down to concentrate full time on philanthropy.

Although also noted for substantial gifts toward educational and medical institutions, Broad made a spate of major donations to Los Angeles arts institutions in 2008. Not only did the Broad Contemporary Art Museum open, but the businessman also donated $6 million to Los Angeles Opera for its upcoming production of Wagner's "Ring" cycle and $10 million to the new Broad Stage at Santa Monica College.

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diane.haithman@latimes.com

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