Kenneth Cole announced that he has stepped down as chairman of AIDS research charity amfAR after serving on its board for more than 30 years. The news comes months after reports surfaced that the fashion designer allegedly made a deal to funnel charity proceeds to Harvey Weinstein’s investors.
“Today my 14-year term as chairman concludes,” Cole said while speaking at the foundation’s annual amfAR Gala New York benefit held at Cipriani Wall Street on Wednesday evening.
“It has been a true privilege to have worked alongside so many talented and dedicated and committed individuals. Through my ongoing work as a UNAIDS Ambassador and with the End AIDS Coalition, I remain personally committed to aligning resources and galvanizing global action and working with amfAR to make AIDS history.”
Last fall, details of an arrangement between Cole and Weinstein came to light — $600,000 of proceeds raised from a 2015 amfAR fundraising gala in Cannes was diverted to pay back investors at the American Repertory Theater, a nonprofit playhouse that staged a trial run of “Finding Neverland,” a Broadway musical produced by Weinstein. In November, a petition was signed by more than 60 people in the industry asking Cole to resign due to the controversial Weinstein deal, which occurred before the mogul’s sexual assault scandal.
Moments after Cole revealed that he would no longer be serving as board chairman, only a handful of guests stood up and gave Cole a standing ovation for his decades of work with the organization. Cole first got involved with amfAR 33 years ago when he met the organization’s founder, Dr. Mathilde Krim, who died last month at the age of 91. He began collaborating with Krim on a series of public service campaigns to educate the public about HIV/AIDS, and succeeded her as the chairman of the board in 2004 to lead the fight against the pandemic.
Cole released a statement to media, which stated that he will not be the only one to leave his position. According to the fashion designer, the organization will be “instituting term limits for board members which is why I, along with 4 of my colleagues, have stepped down from the board.” Cole will continue to serve as an honorary chairman until the board’s new leader is selected.
The nonprofit, which has become known for its star-studded annual galas, has raised more than $120 million and hopes to find a cure for AIDS by 2020. Wednesday night’s gala, which honored Lee Daniels and Stefano Tonchi, raised $1.6 million for the the org’s research programs.
Read Cole’s full statement below:
“I have proudly served on the board of amfAR for more than 30 years, and as its Chairman for the last 14. During that time, we’ve raised hundreds of millions of dollars for groundbreaking research and public advocacy campaigns that continue to save lives across the globe.
With my support, the amfAR board has adopted a number of governance reforms that will ensure that the organization can continue to grow and make a meaningful impact. One of these is instituting term limits for Board members which is why I, along with 4 of my colleagues, have stepped down from the Board. In the interim, I will continue to serve as an Honorary Chairman and be part of the process for selecting a new and committed Chairman.
Though I am stepping aside, I am not stepping away from this fight. I will continue in my role as an International Good Will Ambassador on behalf of UNAIDS, and as Chairman of the End AIDS Coalition.”
— Kenneth Cole
amfAR Statement regarding the Board of Trustees:
At their annual meeting on Wednesday, February 7, the Board of Trustees of amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, voted on a series of reforms that will enable the Foundation to continue to operate at the highest standards of governance.
Recognizing that the recruitment of new Trustees is essential to the Foundation’s continuing evolution and progress, the Board voted unanimously to implement term limits for Trustees. The Trustees whose terms were expiring at this meeting and who had served longer than the term limits adopted, graciously agreed to rotate off the Board after serving the Foundation with distinction. They are: Donald Capoccia, Kenneth Cole, Vincent Roberti, Mervyn F. Silverman, M.D., M.P.H., and John Simons.
We are very grateful to these five Trustees for their years of service on the Board, and especially appreciative of our Chair, Kenneth Cole, who has served this organization for 30 years with extraordinary dedication. Under his leadership we have raised hundreds of millions of dollars for AIDS research, had a profound impact on millions of people’s lives, and gotten closer to our ultimate goal of finding a cure for this insidious disease.