Carnegie Hall Promotes Mercedes Bass to Acting Chairman

  • Board also creates governance committee led by Robert Lipp
  • Perelman had said he'll exit after raising oversight concerns

Mercedes Bass, acting chairman of Carnegie Hall, with Sandy Weill, a former chairman, and soprano Anna Netrebko.

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Carnegie Hall named Mercedes Bass acting chairman, taking over from billionaire Ronald O. Perelman, who stepped down after raising concerns about the venue’s oversight.

Bass, a philanthropist who has served as a trustee of Carnegie Hall for 26 years and as its vice chairman since 2006, was elected during a board meeting Thursday, according to a statement from the venue. The board also created a governance committee to be led by banking industry veteran Robert I. Lipp. The new panel will oversee policies and practices related to board stewardship and provide guidance to the board.

Perelman, the chairman and chief executive officer of MacAndrews & Forbes, said last month he would vacate the post after expressing frustrations with Carnegie’s executive and artistic director, Clive Gillinson, and other board members. In a Sept. 16 letter to the board, he raised concerns that the concert hall wasn’t being transparent enough about finances and questioned the oversight of related-party transactions. The board’s executive committee hired Howard Heiss of O’Melveny & Myers LLP to look into the allegations.

“I am confident that together we will get over this bump and start a brilliant new chapter going forward with Clive Gillinson’s unique artistic and executive leadership at the helm of this most prestigious organization,” Bass wrote in an e-mail after the announcement.

The chairman holds the most senior oversight post for Carnegie Hall, which had more than $85 million in expenses and managed to increase its net assets in fiscal 2014, according to a copy of its audited financial statement.

Bass has also held leadership positions at institutions including the Metropolitan Opera and the Aspen Institute. Thursday’s appointment puts her atop a board that oversees two key nonprofits established in 1960: Carnegie Hall Corp. and Carnegie Hall Society, which manage and fund-raise for the venue, respectively.

Perelman, 72, is the shortest-serving chairman, having assumed the role in February. He remains on the board. His predecessor, Sanford Weill, held the post for 24 years and is currently president. Lipp, 77, helped Weill build Citigroup Inc.

Carnegie presents classical orchestras from around the world, as well as jazz, world and popular music. The venue also rents its stages to other music outfits.

Executive committee member Peter May, a founding partner of Trian Fund Management, led a process to identify a candidate as chairman of the nominating committee. Other members of that panel include Joshua Nash of Ulysses Management, who helps oversee Carnegie Hall’s endowment, and Stanley Shuman, a senior adviser at Allen & Co.

"The health of the organization is all we care about," May said Wednesday at a gala opening Carnegie Hall’s 125th season.

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