“It took a crisis to make changes,” says the new owner of the Golden Globes

The return of the Golden Globes to NBC on January 10 will mark not only the 80th anniversary of the awards ceremony, but the long journey of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. to restore its image and return to the good graces of Hollywood.

It also underscores how drastically the group has changed under its new owner, billionaire Todd Boehly, chairman of private equity firm Eldridge Industries, the parent company of longtime Golden Globes producer Dick Clark Productions.

Earlier this year, Boehly, co-owner of the Dodgers, also made headlines with the record purchase of Premier League football club Chelsea FC for $4.93 billion.

No longer a nonprofit group of foreign entertainment journalists, the 96 members (including those with emeritus status) of the newly reconstituted for-profit organizations are now paid employees of the Golden Globes Association under the Eldridge umbrella.

They will earn $75,000 a year to screen films and TV series submitted for Golden Globes consideration, vote on nominations and winners, write content for the organization’s website and organize materials for the award. prices and the history of the group, according to a copy of the contract of employment examined. by The Times.

Under the new plan, the association’s tax-exempt status will be dissolved and the new association will allow members “the opportunity to share its profits”. The new private entity will manage its Golden Globes assets, while maintaining charitable and philanthropic programs in a separate nonprofit entity. The plan still needs to be approved by the California attorney general.

In an interview with The Times, Boehly said the changes were necessary steps.

“We had the combination of the changing business model, contested governance and a sense of power, which ultimately led to the disaster that we all witnessed,” Boehly said. “And it took a crisis to bring about change. »

In September, the HFPA added 103 non-member international voters, greatly expanding the diversity and geographic reach of the group. This group of voters will not be paid, creating a two-tier system.

Boehly, who became the group’s interim CEO last year, said he expects the number of international voters to increase to make it less “dependent on existing members”, while expanding the group. as a whole and the global presence of the organization. The goal, he said, is to establish what he called “events around the world under the Golden Globes brand.”

Proponents of the new setup say it’s a way to replace the flawed old system, in which some members got paid journalism assignments based on the exclusive access the HFPA gave to talent through screenings , press conferences and other events.

By offering salaries, guaranteed for five years, as well as benefits, including medical and dental, and accrued vacation and bonuses, the reasoning goes, Boehly can exercise a greater level of control over members by eliminating their claims for exclusive access which have become a point of contention for many in the industry.

“Now, doing [members] not dependent on press conferences, I remove the kind of conflicts of interest that were built into the organization and that could have created the opportunity to be influenced by things other than just being authentic and to have real integrity,” Boehly said.

Further, he said the for-profit structure will allow the organization to adapt and operate with the kind of accountability, governance and flexibility that was absent from the HFPA.

Industry critics, including a number of Hollywood publicists, have long complained about the HFPA’s outsized influence in the awards ecosystem and that its members behaved inappropriately and unprofessionally during awards. press conferences, frequently snubbing talents of color.

“We were all complicit in working with the organization and holding each other’s noses,” said a publicist who acknowledged the HFPA had made a number of strides in its reform efforts.

Over the past 20 months, the HFPA has established a new code of conduct and bylaws, banned gifts, instituted a misconduct hotline, and placed travel restrictions. The group also hired its first diversity director and admitted 21 new members, including six blacks.

The abandonment of exclusive press conferences has become a priority issue for a contingent of more than 100 influential publicists who have demanded major reforms and boycotted the HFPA following the Times investigation which revealed a lack of diversity among members of the organization and raised concerns about its ethics and finances. practices in 2021.

Over the years, internal and external critics have claimed that the HFPA, with nearly $30 million in annual payments from NBC to broadcast the Golden Globes, has been corrupted by the huge cash flow to the organization.

The Times investigation found that the nonprofit HFPA routinely makes substantial payments to its own members in ways that some experts say may violate Internal Revenue Service guidelines. HFPA members collected nearly $2 million in payouts from the group in its fiscal year ending June 2020 for serving on various committees and performing other duties.

The HFPA said members were properly compensated for their services and that payments were consistent with market rates and industry practices.

Boehly said paying members will create a “system of checks and balances.”

“So how do you empower people? Boehly said. “Well, you’re moving the organization from a nonprofit with no accountability and poor governance to one where there’s employee-based accountability. »

Still, some look askance at the $75,000 in salaries and benefits, saying they elevate the role of money within the organization, making its employee members paid voters.

Kelly McBride, senior vice president of the Poynter Institute and president of its Craig Newmark Center for Ethics & Leadership, said the arrangement was unusual.

While sports journalists vote for the Heisman winner and other journalists vote for the Pulitzer winners and other journalism awards, “I haven’t heard of another group of voters [who] get paid,” she said.

“Primarily, it makes you wonder if the HFPA has an agenda,” McBride added. “$75,000 is a lot of influence. Whenever journalists are not paid by journalists, the question is why they are paid and if the influence is not bought.

Boehly played down the expected payouts.

“I wouldn’t call them paid voters,” he said, adding that voting is only part of their role in the organization. “I don’t know why a paid journalist can’t also vote on something. Where is the rule that says that?

As paid employees, Golden Globes Assn. members can be terminated without cause.

“It’s about going professional,” Boehly said, saying the ability to fire employees is part of “good governance and mechanisms to ensure that the organization moves with the times at a very professional level.”

The contract includes an “opt-out” clause, in which members who sign the contract have 30 days to end their association and will be paid $225,000. Boehly said the payment was simply “severance pay.”

Even as the HFPA began its reforms, various reformers and dissenters claimed that it had become less transparent. Over the past year, the association has quietly expelled a handful of members they have accused of violating its standards.

And some believe the new structure and financial payouts are ways to keep members in line – and weed out those seen as problematic.

Turning the HFPA into a for-profit company “takes away the last shred of legitimacy,” said a former member who declined to be named for fear of reprisal. “They are now a business enterprise…opaque, let alone trustworthy. »

While the new Golden Globes Assn. takes shape, another question is how paid members will handle potential conflicts involving their new employer.

In addition to owning the Golden Globes, Eldridge Industries owns Dick Clark Productions, which produces the awards ceremony. For years, the two separate entities split the $60 million licensing fee NBC paid to air the show. Eldridge also holds interests in a number of trade publications, including the Hollywood Reporter and Variety.

At the same time, production companies, including A24, are part of Eldridge’s portfolio. Content produced by these companies will likely be considered for the Golden Globes. This year alone, A24 garnered 10 nominations in film categories, second only to Searchlight.

“One question is what is the ultimate value of the Globes? asks McBride. “Any time you have these awards systems, the Emmys or the sports or the Oscars, you want some sort of accounting so you know the system is fair and the … people who vote are legitimate. »

Boehly said there are processes in place to ensure responsible voting, including having accounting firm Ernst & Young tally the votes. “I don’t get involved in that at all,” he said, adding that after the transition to a for-profit company, he plans to hand over leadership to a new CEO and a new management team. direction.

“I’m not interested in having any influence because I think, frankly, it would harm the integrity of the brand. And of course my number one goal is to grow the brand.

Still, Boehly acknowledges that despite the organization’s best efforts, skeptics remain.

“I have nightmares where it doesn’t work too, you know?” I get it, you can’t convince everyone of anything all the time,” he said, “we know we have to add value and we know we have to be part of the solution.

He added: “We understand our place in the ecosystem and we want to make sure we achieve it – to be a professional organization with longevity. »

Writer Josh Rottenberg contributed to this report.

Source: www.latimes.com


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