Skip to comments.Upheaval at Heinz Endowments raises eyebrows (son exerted control when Teresa Heinz Kerry was ill)
Posted on 10/20/2013 1:35:03 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
Turmoil is mounting at The Heinz Endowments, the region's second-biggest foundation, with the resignation of its president and reports that the Heinz family's environmental center in Washington is on the brink of closure, members of the nonprofit community say.
Robert Vagt on Monday announced his resignation as president of The Heinz Endowments the fourth key executive to leave this year. Jack Kime, vice president of finance and administration, retired in January, and Caren Glotfelty, senior director of the environmental program at Heinz, and Douglas L. Root, communications director, left in August.
Shake-ups of that magnitude raise eyebrows in the foundation community.
When four senior-level managers all leave in the matter of months, you would be a fool not to wonder what was going on. Could it be coincidental? Sure, but unlikely, said Laura Otten, executive director of The Nonprofit Center at La Salle University in Philadelphia.
Sources said this summer that Andre Heinz, son of the late Sen. H. John Heinz and a member of the Endowments board, is exerting control and engineered the departures of Glotfelty and Root when his mother, Teresa Heinz Kerry, became ill.
Andre Heinz and Teresa Heinz Kerry declined to comment, as did Vagt and several board members.
Sources told the Tribune-Review that the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment soon will close.
You will not be surprised to know that I have no comment, said President Conn Nugent. That's the way it'll be for a while, at least. I'm allowed to say, No comment.'
Heinz Kerry, through the Endowments, established the center in 1995 as a memorial to her late first husband with an initial grant of $20 million. The foundation has given the nonprofit center nearly $4.2 million since 2001.
The Heinz Center works with businesses, scientists, government agencies and nonprofit groups to find solutions to environmental problems.
Many in the nonprofit community, some of whom get Heinz funding, were hesitant to comment on the Endowments, which awarded nearly $900 million in grants almost all to organizations in the Pittsburgh area between 1997 and 2011.
Some said the changes stem from the Heinz family's dismay about news accounts last spring that questioned their commitment to the environment when the Endowments became a founding partner of the Center for Sustainable Shale Development, a joint-industry/environmental institute focused on standards for shale gas drilling. Some media accounts questioned Vagt's long-standing ties to the oil and gas industry.
Vagt's biography on the Endowments website notes that he spent a decade as an executive in the industry before becoming president of Davidson College in North Carolina.
So how each of them came together he with his industry background and the family and the board of directors with their environmental perspectives in hindsight looks like the ultimate recipe for conflict, said Robert Strauss, professor of economics and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University.
It's a shame circumstances are such that he has chosen to leave, said former Allegheny County Executive Jim Roddey.
It could indicate that they're going to be more focused on the environment or it could simply mean that they were unhappy with the negative publicity that occurred from the many environmental organizations they support, said Roddey, who serves on the boards of RiverQuest, where he is president, and The Pittsburgh Foundation.
Despite their focus on sustainable technologies and the environment, tax records show The Heinz Endowments holds investments worth $5.5 million in at least 12 oil and gas companies, including two that are active in shale gas drilling.
J. Kevin McMahon, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, and Grant Oliphant, president and CEO of The Pittsburgh Foundation, contend that Vagt's departure is not related to the grant to the Center for Sustainable Shale Development.
This is in the normal order of things, Oliphant said. He's looking at a situation where they're about to embark on a new strategic planning phase, and he thinks, rightly, that should be done by somebody who's going to be around for a few years.
Vagt, 66, who collected $455,348 plus $60,929 in benefits in 2011, is widely admired by his colleagues in the nonprofit community.
Bobby is a very thoughtful and intense intellectual, McMahon said.
No timetable has been announced for Vagt's departure, but experts agree his replacement is important because of the key role the Endowments has played in the region. The foundation and the Heinz family have helped transform a former red-light district in Downtown into a Cultural District.
The Heinz Endowments, with assets of about $1.5 billion, awarded $75 million last year in its five areas of interest: the arts and culture, children and families, education, community and economic development, and the environment.
Its largesse has helped support the construction of green buildings such as the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, educational reforms in Pittsburgh Public Schools and the transformation of blighted Hazelwood.
Experts wonder what's next for the Endowments as the next generation ascends to control.
Anytime you have a change in leadership at the board and staff level, it's a natural time to revisit priorities. While tweaks and some refocusing are to be expected, I don't foresee any major changes in the five programmatic areas in which they've been focused over the long run, said Fred Thieman, president of The Buhl Foundation.
The most profitable job is working for a non-profit.
I can imagine the leftist mischief they are up to.
They’re giving endowments and funding to Left-wing think-tanks and university departments to churn out Left-wing propaganda that supports socialist legislation and Left-wing media talking points —— nurturing the green communist agenda.
If there wasn’t something fishy about Mr. Heinz death, you can call me a fish.
Foundations and 501c3 are the primary source of funding and money laundering for the whole leftist movement.
Reminds me of the Annenberg Foundation and how a State senator W.B.Obama and a Professor William Ayers detroyed the educational system in Illinois
The sooner they close down the better off we will all be.
You can only play this foundation shale game so long. Eventually it will ketchup to you.
The Post Gazette is our typical left-wing trash-mag.
I wish we had a conservative paper in Houston.
We used to but after the 2 papers consolidated only the Lefty viewpoint survived a la The Houston Chronicle aka The Houston Comical.
I wonder what John the former would think about all this. /rhetorical
The whole notion of "tax exempt" "non-profits" is a scam which benefits the Left and those who live on inherited wealth (who seem to be largely Dem).
The non-profit can invest its endowment and see tax-free gains in perpetuity, which it can then use to pay for the life-styles of the trustees, and do a little fig-leaf of "charitable" or "educational" work to maintain its status.
Repeal section 501(c)3 entirely.
Something is peculiar about this Andre Heinz individual behind the shake up. That is, while he is on the periphery of his mother’s left wing politics, he seems to spend most of his time researching technologies in northern Europe.
“In 1999, after receiving a masters in environmental management at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, where he specialized in industrial environmental management and industrial ecology, Mr. Heinz accepted a job offer to run the international office of The Natural Step in Stockholm.
“In 2004, Mr. Heinz left The Natural Step to focus on U.S. presidential politics as a surrogate spokesperson specializing in environmental policy and issues.
“Since then, he has turned his attention yet again to Scandinavia as the founder of Sustainable Technology Capital, a growth-stage, private equity management firm focused on Nordic Cleantech.”
(1) The Natural Step is a non-profit organization founded in Sweden in 1989 by scientist Karl-Henrik Robèrt. Following publication of the Brundtland Report in 1987, Robèrt developed The Natural Step framework, setting out the system conditions for the sustainability of human activities on Earth; Robèrt’s four system conditions are derived from the laws of thermodynamics. The Natural Step has also pioneered a “Backcasting from Principles” approach meant to advance society towards greater sustainability.
(2) Sustainable Technology Capital seems to be an investment organization seeking to profit from investing in green businesses (likely receiving funds channeled from governments.)
Lenin was right. “The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.”
Why is it when people get rich, the money ends up being used to attack capitalism and progress? *sigh*