Tag: Nonprofits

Amid orchestra’s contract talks, lessons learned after the wolf’s been chased away

July 4th Louisville orchestra
Music Director Teddy Abrams leads players during a July 4th concert at Waterfont Park.
Louisville Orchestra‘s 2011 bankruptcy recalls one of the morals from Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” — let down your guard, and you may get gobbled up. Back then, the ensemble had grown overly reliant on a relative handful of backers, missing signs their generosity was about to dry up amid the financial crisis.

“No one wanted to face the reality that one day support would end,” Jorge Mester, the music director at the time, told The New York Times for a story about a string of financial crises roiling orchestras that spring.

Now, five years later, the Louisville orchestra is on far more stable footing. Contributions and grants jumped 29% in the year ended May 31, 2015, bringing total revenue to $7.2 million, according to its most recent IRS tax return. After expenses, that left a $1.3 million surplus. The endowment rose about 3% to nearly $1.6 million.

Launched in 1937, the orchestra has about 170 employees and an energetic music director, Teddy Abrams, who started in 2014 after working as assistant conductor at the Detroit Symphony. Abrams, 29, is among a new vanguard of conductors hoping to attract a younger audience and a wider donor base to guard against another sharp downtown.

Against that backdrop, management and players have started negotiations for a new contract to replace one that expired last spring, according to The Courier-Journal. They’re not alone. From coast to coast this year, other ensembles have been in contract talks, too, amid a stronger economy that’s fortified players’ resolve to claw back wages and benefits lost during the financial crisis.

andrew-kipe
Kipe
The tenor of Louisville’s contract talks isn’t known because negotiators aren’t talking publicly. “The organization is still a bit fragile, and we are in the middle of planning,” Executive Director Andrew Kipe told the newspaper.

But a review of the group’s recent IRS returns, alongside contract talks at other orchestras, offers a glimpse at the fraught stakes involved. Continue reading “Amid orchestra’s contract talks, lessons learned after the wolf’s been chased away”

In Lee and Joan Thomas’ philanthropy, five-star giving without the five-star perks

By Jim Hopkins
Boulevard Publisher

A lot of big philanthropy comes with nice extras: private lunches hosted by ballet company directors; season tickets to the opera with box seats, and trusteeships that offer peerless networking with other A-listers. There’s nothing wrong with that; if you gotta keep the lights on and pay the heating bill, it sometimes takes a carrot or two to attract donors who wear a carat or three.

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Thomas

But there are plenty of other worthwhile charities that don’t offer the same social cachet — which leads me to Louisville’s Center for Women and Families, and the late Lee Thomas Jr., the retired businessman and philanthropist who died Tuesday at 90.

The center provides crucial support to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. It runs a crisis hotline; two emergency shelters, and gives psychological and academic help for kids swept up in all that horror. I have Thomas and his wife Joan in mind because they gave the center $2.6 million last year, the bulk of the nearly $4 million their charitable foundation donated to 32 charities. That’s according to the Joan and Lee Thomas Foundation’s public annual IRS tax return for the year ended June 30, 2015; I leafed through it this morning.

To be sure, other generous Louisvillians give to the center, too. But what’s striking about the Thomas’ giving is the sheer concentration on charities that offer few of the five-star social extras. (KET tote bags don’t count.) This was workaday philanthropy to the Home of the Innocents, the Urban League, Planned Parenthood and other important but hardly glamorous causes; here’s a spreadsheet with all their 2015 donations.

The couple’s humility extended to their foundation’s official name, too, which barely identifies them: It’s simply called the J & L Foundation on charity tracker GuideStar.

Much more to come

Their contributions will no doubt continue; the foundation has a $19.5 million portfolio, enough to throw off nearly $1 million in annual contributions well into the future. Last year’s donations brought to $6.3 million the total given in 2013-2015 alone. It ranks in the top tier of Louisville’s biggest foundations and other non-profits based on asset size.

Vermont American logoThe Thomas’ focus on plain philanthropy is hardly surprising, because it reflects their Quaker faith; several of their other donations last year were to charities associated with the Friends General Conference.

Lee and Joan met at a Quaker work camp in 1948, The Courier-Journal says in his obituary. After marrying and moving to Louisville, in 1954 he started building up the former American Saw and Tool Co. — later called Vermont American Corp. — from a single-product supplier to Sears Roebuck & Co. into an international public corporation employing 5,000 people. It’s now a brand in the Robert Bosch Tool Co.

The Thomas’ were instrumental in establishing the ACLU’s Kentucky chapter in 1955, when local civil rights activists were defending a couple, Carl and Anne Braden, accused of being treacherous union sympathizers who fought racial segregation in housing. Lee Thomas also marched with the Rev. Martha Luther King Jr. in the city.

The ACLU mourned his death. “He put up the seed money to get our affiliate off the ground and continued to support our work for the next 61 years,” the chapter said on its Facebook page. “He was a giant for peace, justice, and equality for all. He will be missed, but his example will continue to inspire.”


Disclosure: I’m a card-carrying ACLU member and Planned Parenthood supporter.

Lee Thomas, businessman and philanthropist, is dead at 90

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Thomas

Lee B. Thomas Jr. helped found the ACLU of Kentucky and marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Louisville; he died yesterday, according to The Courier-Journal. Thomas and his wife established the Joan and Lee Thomas Foundation; with $19 million in assets, it ranks among the biggest in the city.

Roadhouse CEO unloads $6.9M in stock; tragedy strikes Calif. Taco Bells when pregnant worker killed in car crash; fiancé is employee, too; Ford extends $400K supercar production

A news summary focused on 10 big employers; updated 8:55 p.m.

Ford 2017 GT supercar
An overhead photo of the 2017 GT; Ford will produce them for four years.
Kent Taylor
Taylor

TEXAS ROADHOUSE founder and CEO Kent Taylor sold $6.9 million of company stock at a hair more than $46 a share Tuesday through yesterday, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. Taylor still owns 4.2 million shares worth $192 million at TXRH shares‘ closing price this afternoon of $45.47.

TACO BELL: In San Jose, Calif., a one-day-old baby boy was in critical condition at a South Bay hospital early this morning, after his 18-year-old mother died in a car accident Wednesday. Both the victim, Dulce Capetillo, and the infant’s father, her fiancé Pedro Cortes, were Taco Bell employees working the late shift. Capetillo’s brother was driving her to pick up Cortes at the Taco Bell where he worked. “I just can’t imagine the pain he is going through right now,” said Taco Bell area supervisor Jose Gonzalez. South Bay Taco Bells now have donation boxes in honor of Dulce; the company plans to match customer donations. And a GoFundMe page is also in place to help with funeral costs (ABC 7).

In Toledo, Ohio, a sheriff’s deputy has been fired after making what were considered inappropriate Facebook posts about Taco Bell employees he said had made vulgar remarks about him.

Deputy Thomas Hillenbrand, 57, a 19-year employee, was canned Wednesday. His Facebook post July 23 said a black employee and a co-worker inside the restaurant yelled “Black lives matter,” and laughed at him while he was in his car in the drive-thru. The deputy was in uniform at the time.

His Facebook post said: “I guess we’ll see if they’re still laughing after I call their corporate office on Monday and unload on someone.” He also encouraged fellow officers to boycott the restaurant. Replying to a comment on his post saying he should have reached through the drive-thru window, Hillenbrand wrote: “Couldn’t reach them. In the pre-camera days, Continue reading “Roadhouse CEO unloads $6.9M in stock; tragedy strikes Calif. Taco Bells when pregnant worker killed in car crash; fiancé is employee, too; Ford extends $400K supercar production”

‘The bottom line is, we’re a little bit ahead of our time. To me, the big shame is when you don’t dream big’

Greg Fischer
Fischer

That’s Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, speaking to The Courier-Journal today about the unexpected failure of West Louisville FoodPort, which developers at Seed Capital Kentucky announced yesterday.

The Brown family donated $382,000 to the project since 2012, making the project’s collapse a rare defeat for the founding family of whiskey giant Brown-Forman.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this post misattributed the quote to philanthropist Stephen Reiley, co-founder of Seed Capital.

In FoodPort’s sudden failure, a rare defeat for Louisville’s blue-chip philanthropists: the Brown family

FoodPort rendering 600
An aerial rendering of 24-acre site at 30th Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard.

By Jim Hopkins
Boulevard Publisher

For the past two years, developers of the West Louisville FoodPort worked mightily to bring urban farming and as many as 250 good jobs to the heart of a neighborhood yearning for a better future. Mayor Greg Fischer said the project would “change the look and feel of Russell forever.” Their ambitious, $35 million plan was going so well, one of the world’s foremost advocates of organic food paid a headline-grabbing visit last year: Prince Charles, heir to the British throne.

Stephen Reily
Reily

But yesterday, the entire enterprise collapsed when the non-profit developers, Seed Capital Kentucky, abruptly announced they’d lost a linchpin partner, and without enough time to find a replacement. “We don’t have a way to put it together,” Seed Capital co-founder Stephen Reily said. “We are deeply disappointed.”

Many, many other people were disappointed as well: the mayor, who’d pushed the project as a centerpiece for revitalizing the Russell neighborhood, only to see it steadily scaled back amid community infighting; some 150 residents who helped shepherd the project past months of political hurdles, and the Russell councilwoman, Cheri Bryant Hamilton, “heartbroken” last night over its failure, The Courier-Journal said.

But less publicized was the distress almost certainly felt by a high-profile Louisville family who had invested heavily in its development: the Browns, founders of the spirits giant Brown-Forman. It was an unusual defeat for a family that’s often in the vanguard of high-profile causes ending in resounding success.

Christy Brown
Brown

The Browns were there at critical junctures for the FoodPort, including last year’s goodwill tour by Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall. In a speech at the Cathedral of the Assumption on that overcast Friday in March, the CJ reported at the time, “the prince credited his visit to the persuasive powers of Louisville philanthropist Christina Lee Brown, matriarch of the family that controls Brown-Forman.”

Indeed, in 0ne photo with the newspaper’s online story, the unidentified woman in an orange coat and strands of pearls, beaming in the royal couple’s wake during one of their walkabouts, is Christina, known to many in Louisville as Christy.

Augusta Brown Holland
Holland

As one of the city’s best-known philanthropists, she and her immediate family have formed the core of the extended Brown family’s support of Seed Capital. Her daughter, Augusta Brown Holland, an urban planner and investor, is one of the non-profit’s six board members. Another daughter, Brooke Brown Barzun, has a more direct line to Buckingham Palace: Her husband, Matthew Barzun, is U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom.

A tale of IRS tax returns

The Browns donate multimillions of dollars annually to charities from coast to coast, although especially in Louisville. But they don’t often seek attention for their contributions.

Prince and Christina 300
On the CJ: Camilla, Christy and Charles.

In fact, Seed Capital only hints at the family’s hefty financial support,
on a difficult-to-find page of its website with a barebones alphabetical roster of “funders.” Of the 16 names listed, six are Brown family members or their personal charitable foundations. A seventh is the source of their $6 billion fortune: Brown-Forman, the nearly 150-year-old producer of Jack Daniel’s and other well-known brands. And an eighth, the Community Foundation of Louisville, is home to at least 10 individual Brown donor-advised funds.

Brown family foundation public IRS tax returns fill in details. In 2012-2015, six of the foundations donated a combined Continue reading “In FoodPort’s sudden failure, a rare defeat for Louisville’s blue-chip philanthropists: the Brown family”