September 11, 2017; Wall Street Journal
Many nonprofits have had the experience of watching a foundation they depend upon hire a new leader and suddenly change course, for good or ill. It says volumes about the governance of the institution. But George Soros’s Open Society Foundations are going another way.
Despite the inclusion of the word “acting” in the title of newly named acting president Patrick Gaspard, a spokeswoman for Open Society Foundations (OSF) has declared that no search is under way for the two top positions at OSF.
Gaspard, currently vice president of the organization, will step into the top job in early 2018, following a five-year-plus tenure by current president Christopher Stone. The vacancy of the vice-president role as a result of Gaspard’s promotion will be filled by current OSF Eurasia regional director Leonard Benardo.
OSF explained that this move does not indicate a change in focus for the global giant. Since its founding in 1979, the conglomeration of offices and individual foundations Soros created has reached expenditures of nearly $14 billion, organized around seven world regions with ten thematic giving areas. Nearly a billion alone is dedicated in the 2017 budget to “economic governance and advancement,” defined as “the nexus of economic development and social justice.”
Soros, at age 87, has also begun planning for his own impending transition.
Mr. Soros wrote in a Monday letter to the foundation that Mr. Stone had successfully prepared the foundation to be run by a global board when Mr. Soros, 87, is no longer involved. He said Open Society’s board has a broader mandate than simply hiring and firing presidents and that Open Society’s direction should come from board members who “commit themselves to take responsibility for the interests of the foundation.”
Speaking of boards, with an emphasis on the plural, OSF possesses one of the most complex networks of boards that coexist within one organization. OSF operates primarily out of five hub offices in Brussels, Budapest, London, New York, and Washington, D.C. In addition to the Global Board, there are six geographic boards and seventeen thematic boards. That’s enough to keep any president, acting or otherwise, with a very full calendar!—Jeannie Fox