Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Irvine Gives Ex-CEO a Gold Mine: The talk of California's nonprofit sector is the compensation package the Irvine Foundation's board of trustees gave to its Dennis Collins retiring CEO. The compensation package reached $717,000 one year to lavish retirement fetes, a trip around the world for he and his wife and other gifts. This came all in the midst of the foundation losing a quarter of its $1.6 billion in assets, laying off 20 percent of its staff, and cutting its grants by $20 million. We all like to think that charitable organizations and the foundations that fund them are immune from irrational exuberance and greed that afflicted so many enterprises during the dot com boom. Unfortunately, our sector has its own conflicts of interests and Mr. Collins may well become philanthropy's version of former GE CEO Jack Welch. The real question is whether this will have the staying power of William Aramony and United Way? My opinion is that the impact will be far less severe, but could result in increased scrutiny from Washington, DC, and Sacramento.

According to several legal experts, Collins' compensation warrants an audit by the Internal Revenue Service and an investigation by the state attorney general. Unfortunately, both institutions are severely understaffed and lack the financial resources to prove a charge of excessive compensation.

Email your thoughts and opinions pro and con -- I will post the most interesting comments.

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