After being publicly humiliated in her private effort to open Augusta National Golf Club to women, Martha Burk, head of the National Council of Women's Organizations, went after sponsors of The Masters, the club's storied tournament. She got nowhere. Her overnight nemesis, Augusta National Chairman William "Hootie" Johnson, canceled the sponsorships of IBM, Citigroup, and Coca-Cola.
Next, Burk asked CBS, which broadcasts The Masters, to intercede. She got nowhere. Now, she is targeting high-profile top execs, who cherish difficult-to-come-by Augusta memberships.
Despite the club's penchant for secrecy, Burk, whose NCWO represents 160 women's groups, has obtained a partial list of members. Among former and current chairmen and CEOs who she says belong to Augusta are Bob Allen, formerly of AT&T; Warren Buffett/Berkshire Hathaway; Ken Chenault/American Express; Bill Gates/Microsoft; Lou Gerstner/IBM; John Reed, formerly of Citigroup; Lloyd Ward/U.S. Olympic Committee; Sandy Weill/Citigroup; and Thomas Usher/U.S. Steel. Burk's two biggest targets are William Harrison/J.P. Morgan and Chris Galvin/
Motorola, who are being given leadership awards at a Business Women's Network and iVillage Diversity Gala on Oct. 23 in Washington (BusinessWeek is a media partner). All declined comment or did not return calls--perhaps because public statements would be grounds for immediate ouster from Augusta.
In letters to be released on Sept. 27, Burk tells execs that their affiliation with the club "sends a message to your customers that [your] company's statements on discrimination are hollow and insincere...."
Club insiders say privately that Burk should back off. Had it not been for her bullying tactics, says one, "We might have changed the [no women] policy by now."
By Toddi Gutner