boston.com News your connection to The Boston Globe
Today's Globe  |   Latest News:   Local   Nation   World   |  NECN   Education   Obituaries   Special sections  

Two BU trustees quit amid turmoil

Two nationally known members of Boston University's board of trustees have resigned amid the crisis gripping the university over whether Daniel S. Goldin will be allowed to take the president's office.

Kenneth Feld, owner of Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus, and Jeffrey Katzenberg, a cofounder of the Hollywood studio DreamWorks SKG, both resigned last week, BU confirmed yesterday.

The two were among the highest-profile members of the board and represented some of its deepest pockets. They are ranked on the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans -- Katzenberg with $800 million and Feld with $775 million.

Both resigned before the board's executive committee held a vote of no confidence in Goldin last Friday, but after a contentious trustee meeting on Oct. 15 and 16 in which Goldin and many trustees appeared to be heading toward an impasse over issues of Goldin's authority and that of outgoing Chancellor John Silber.

The executive committee, made up of 24 of the most active and influential board members, scheduled the entire board of trustees to meet this Friday to vote on whether to rescind Goldin's job offer. Goldin sent the trustees a letter this week strongly signaling his desire to take office as scheduled on Saturday, setting up a high-level struggle over the university's future leadership.

Katzenberg didn't know about the vote of no confidence when he quit, but he was upset by the turmoil on the board, said a person familiar with the trustees' concerns. An advocate for limiting Silber's future role, Katzenberg concluded that the executive committee -- and specifically Silber's staunchest allies -- was making decisions and forcing them on the rest of the board, the source said.

"He has been extremely frustrated for some time with the executive committee's contempt for the board, and fed up that the board has no authority," said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "It became clear after that meeting [on Oct. 16] that a mess was forthcoming. Things had been done behind closed doors and misrepresented."

Katzenberg, whose resignation was first reported in The New York Times, declined to comment yesterday through a spokesman. Feld could not be reached.

Feld, 53, is a BU alumnus who, in addition to owning Ringling Bros., also produces other entertainment such as Disney on Ice and the Siegfried & Roy magic show in Las Vegas.

Katzenberg, 52, has twins who are BU sophomores. He is the producer of such animated hits as "Shrek," "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Little Mermaid."

They join David D'Alessandro, CEO of John Hancock Financial Services Inc., who resigned from the board in July. Though seen as a possible future chairman of the board, D'Alessandro strongly disagreed with Goldin's selection, a separate source close to trustees told the Globe over the weekend.

BU spokeswoman Nancy Sterling said that there have been no other recent resignations, and that neither Feld nor Katzenberg offered a reason in their resignation letters. The board now numbers 41 people, Sterling said, having shrunk in recent years from a high of more than 50.

Members of the governing board have done great damage to BU's reputation and to their own, said Richard P. Chait, a specialist in university governance at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

"This is a tremendous stain and taint," Chait said, speaking of the effort of some trustees to topple Goldin before he even begins. "The philanthropic community, the donor community, faculty, senior managers -- all of these people take notice of this, and it will be much more difficult to recruit talented human capital."

Marcella Bombardieri can be reached at bombardieri@globe.com. Steve Bailey can be reached at bailey@globe.com.

SEARCH GLOBE ARCHIVES
 
Globe Archives Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months