Where's Koret Foundation Grantmaking Going After Recent Legal Battles?

The Bay Area has always been top priority for the Koret Foundation, as well as Jewish causes and collaborative efforts with Taube Philanthropies. But a string of legal battles has plagued the foundation and left grantseekers wondering what will happen next.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the case, we’ll give you the Cliff’s Notes.

Susan Koret, wife of founder Joseph Koret, filed a lawsuit two years ago to get Tad Taube and Richard Greene off the foundation board. Taube was the CEO of the Koret clothing company, and Greene is a local attorney and general counsel for the foundation. By taking legal action, Susan Koret aimed to recover millions of dollars that she claimed Taube made in grants that were outside the scope of the foundation’s mission.

Just a quick reminder: the foundation’s mission has been to help the poor and Jewish communities in Northern California’s Bay Area and in Israel. The grants in dispute relate to awards for Jewish projects in Poland (where Taube was born) and to conservative groups like the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

There were also some claims of sexual harassment thrown into the mix. And other board members, in addition to Taube, were accused of conflicts of interest and self-serving interests involving foundation money. Board members filed a counter complaint against Susan Koret about initially agreeing with the board’s decisions and later changing her mind in an attempt to take control of the foundation.

Honestly, this is all a lot for a foundation to recover from.

The fate of the $600 million Koret Foundation and who would control this large sum of money has been up in the air for a while now. But the parties have reached a settlement, and the results came as a bit of a surprise. Not only is Ted Taube retiring from the Koret Foundation board, but Susan Koret is as well. She was named “chairwoman for life” in her late husband’s will, but her involvement will be much more limited going forward. Local sources say that Koret is retiring immediately and Taube by April 1.

But with leadership shift in progress, a lot of questions remain left unanswered for local groups. How might grantmaking shift with new trustees at the top? And will the upcoming grant cycles be disrupted because of this ordeal?

Despite the internal battle, the 2016 grantmaking cycle did go forward. The Koret Foundation’s news section has been pretty quiet over the past couple years, with the exception of a June 2016 press release about higher education grants. This involved a $50 million commitment to support 12 Bay Area higher education institutions, which you can read more about in this post: How the Koret Foundation Supports Bay Area Higher Education.

Judge Curtis Karnow said that this settlement is reasonable and that it places the interests of the foundation over the interests of the individuals involved. But there’s been little news released about how Koret will pick up the pieces and approach grantmaking in a more transparent way that aligns with the founder’s mission.

A statement issued by both parties read as follows:

As now reconfirmed in the Bylaws of the Koret Foundation, the Koret Foundation will continue its programs in furtherance of charitable (including addressing problems of underserved populations, community and youth development, hunger, homelessness and poverty in the San Francisco Bay Area, among others), educational, religious, scientific, and literary purposes, including charitable giving to the Jewish community.

That’s about all we know right now, and admittedly, it’s not a lot to go on. The settlement requires the Koret Foundation’s bylaws to include a new and improved statement of the funder’s mission. But the good news here for local groups is that the renewed focus seems to center on the Bay Area, rather than projects overseas. However, the foundation’s mission as posted on its website still mentions “extending our reach to include Israel and Poland.”

Sign up for Koret’s email list to keep up with whatever changes may transpire in the months ahead. The foundation has traditionally only considered grant requests by invitation only. There are currently no open job positions at Koret, but perhaps that could change as the internal workings of this foundation shift around.