They bent the rules for Harvey Weinstein, and now they’re paying the price.
AmfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, has long relied on the now-disgraced Hollywood mogul to supply celebrities, cachet and cash for its fundraising efforts. And now as the nonprofit faces a reckoning born from this dependence, the stakes are particularly high for its famous board chairman: the fashion magnate Kenneth Cole, who has carefully built his eponymous brand around his own image as a philanthropist.
AmfAR’s current existential crisis stems from the sale of a trio of auction lots that Weinstein curated for the HIV organization’s 2015 Cannes Film Festival gala. The enduring firestorm surrounding the film producer’s alleged sexual misconduct has only put these auction transactions, and amfAR itself, under an even more intense microscope.
The convoluted series of financial arrangements that channeled the proceeds from the auction lots in question—amfAR carried out these transactions at Weinstein’s insistence—have raised deep concerns among a faction of the nonprofit’s trustees and have given rise to a board-wide civil war. This internal battle has for the past four months played out in the public eye, with many HIV activists joining a call for Cole’s ouster. And as is invariably the case in disputes among the rich and powerful, a flock of high-powered lawyers has descended upon the scene.