“It took a crisis to make changes,” said the Golden Globes owner

The Golden Globes’ return to NBC on January 10 won’t just mark the 80th anniversary of the award ceremony, but the long journey of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. to rehabilitate his image and get back into Hollywood’s good graces.

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

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

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

According to a copy of the verified employment contract, they will earn $75,000 per year to screen films and television series submitted for the Golden Globes, vote on nominations and winners, write content for the organization’s website, and materials for the awards ceremony and organizing the history of the group by The Times.

Under the new plan, the club’s tax exemption will be removed, and the new club will give members “the opportunity to share in its profits”. The new private company will manage its Golden Globes assets while maintaining the charitable and philanthropic programs in a separate non-profit company. The plan has yet to be approved by the California Attorney General.

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

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

In September, the HFPA added 103 international non-member voters, greatly expanding the group’s diversity and geographic reach. This constituency is unpaid, effectively creating a two-tier system.

Boehly, who became the group’s interim CEO last year, said he expects the number of international voters to grow to make them less “dependent on existing members” while expanding the organization’s overall voting pool and global footprint would. The goal, he said, is to “establish events around the world under the Golden Globes brand,” as he put it.

Supporters of the new setup say it’s a way to replace the old broken system, in which some members were given paid journalistic jobs based on the HFPA’s exclusive access to talent through screenings, press conferences and other events.

By providing salaries guaranteed for five years, as well as benefits, including medical and dental benefits, as well as accrued vacation time and bonuses, it argues, Boehly can exercise a greater degree of control over members by overriding their demands for exclusive Access, which has become an important point of contention for many in the industry.

“Now by doing [members] Not depending on press conferences, I take away the kind of conflicts of interest that were embedded in the organization and may have created an opportunity to be swayed by things other than just authenticity and genuine integrity,” Boehly said.

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

Industry critics, including a number of Hollywood publicists, have long complained that the HFPA has an outsized impact on the awards ecosystem and that its members have behaved inappropriately and unprofessionally at press conferences and have often snubbed talent of color.

“We were all complicit in working with the organization and holding our noses,” said one publicist, acknowledging that the HFPA has 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, established a hotline for reporting misconduct and restricted travel. The group also hired its first chief diversity officer and added 21 new members, six of whom are black.

Forgoing exclusive press conferences became a front burner issue for a contingent of more than 100 power publicists calling for major reforms and boycotting the HFPA after the Times investigation revealed a lack of diversity in the organization’s membership and raised concerns about its ethics and finances had practices in 2021.

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

The Times investigation found that the nonprofit HFPA regularly made sizable payments to its own members, which some experts say may violate Internal Revenue Service guidelines. HFPA members received nearly $2 million in payments from the group for serving on various committees and performing other duties during their fiscal year ended June 2020.

The HFPA said members were fairly remunerated for their services and payments were in line with market rates and industry practice.

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

“And how do you hold people accountable? said Boehly. “Well, you’re transforming the organization from a non-profit organization with no accountability and poor leadership to an organization with employee-based accountability.”

Still, some view the $75,000 salary and benefits package with skepticism, saying it elevates money’s role within the organization and effectively turns its employees into paid voters.

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

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

“The main question is whether the HFPA has an agenda,” McBride added. “$75,000 is quite a lot of influence. Whenever journalists are not being paid by journalists, the question arises as to what they are being paid for and whether influence is not bought.”

Boehly downplayed the planned payments.

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

As paid employees, Golden Globes Assn. Members can be dismissed without giving a reason.

“This is about becoming professional,” Boehly said, saying the ability to terminate employees is part of “good corporate governance and mechanisms to ensure that the organization evolves over time at a very professional level.” “

The contract includes a “walk-away” clause whereby members who sign the contract have 30 days to cancel their association and receive $225,000. Boehly said the payment was simply a “severance pay.”

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

And some believe the new structure and financial payments are a means of keeping members engaged — and weeding out those seen as problematic.

The HFPA’s transformation into a for-profit corporation “robs it of its last shred of legitimacy,” said a former member who declined to be identified for fear of retribution. “They are now a commercial enterprise… opaque, even less trustworthy.”

As the new Golden Globes Assn. Taking shape, another question is how paid members will manage potential conflicts with their new employer.

In addition to owning the Golden Globes, Eldridge Industries also owns Dick Clark Productions, which produces the awards show. For years, the two separate companies shared the $60 million in royalties paid by NBC to air the show. Eldridge also owns interests in a number of specialty publications, including the Hollywood Reporter and Variety.

At the same time, production companies such as A24 are part of the Eldridge portfolio. Content produced by these companies will likely be considered for Golden Globes. This year alone, A24 received 10 nominations in the film categories, followed by Searchlight.

“One question is what is the ultimate value of the globes?” asks McBride. “Anytime you have these awards systems, the Emmys or sports or the Academy Awards, you want some sort of accounting so you know that the system is fair and that the … people who are voting are legitimate.”

Boehly said processes are in place to ensure responsible voting, including auditing firm Ernst & Young tabulating votes. “I’m not involved in that,” he said, adding that after the transition to a for-profit company, he plans to hand over the reins to a new CEO and management team.

“I’m not interested in making an impact because I honestly think it would damage the integrity of the brand. And of course my ultimate goal is to expand the brand.”

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

“I also have nightmares where it doesn’t work, you know? I understand you can’t always convince all the people of something,” 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 want to make sure we achieve that – to be a professional organization with longevity.”

Staff writer Josh Rottenberg contributed to this report.

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/business/story/2022-12-22/the-new-golden-globes-is-now-a-business-with-a-billionaire-owner-and-paid-members “It took a crisis to make changes,” said the Golden Globes owner

Sarah Ridley

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