Tim Kelly, President of National Geographic, has “decided to leave” the Society to “seek new terrain”

To: My Colleagues at National Geographic
From: Tim Kelly

Tim Kelly

After three decades of a truly excellent adventure, I have decided to leave National Geographic and seek new terrain. Over the next few months, I’ll be working closely with John Fahey and the EMC to ensure a smooth transition, and will conclude my service at the end of this year.

Geographic has been my obsession and addiction all these years. I loved every minute and will cherish every memory, from being part of Bob Ballard’s finding the Titanic, to seeing next month’s NGM cover story on “Blood Ivory.” I know of no other organization that inspires its staff to feel as proud, fascinated and motivated about being part of something greater than themselves.

I leave the Society in what I believe is a moment of strength, with tremendous potential to make an even bigger difference in the world. The mission of the Society– to inspire people to care about the planet — is its most valuable asset, and I know that the mission is paramount in the hearts of management and staff.

The management team is a superb mix of experienced old hands and vital new blood, well suited to succeed during these volatile times. The digital expression of National Geographic is advancing in great leaps and bounds, and the re-invention of Membership is about to be unveiled. The Channel is now a global force, and the balance sheet has never been stronger. There is nothing that can stop National Geographic from fulfilling its destiny to help make the world a better place.

I will miss most the close working relationship with my friends and colleagues. It has been such a privilege to work with such a wild range of explorers, filmmakers, scientists, dreamers, crusaders, technologists and passion-filled staffers. I would like to extend a huge thanks to all of my colleagues for your support, friendship and tolerance.

Finally, I would like to thank Gil Grosvenor, John Fahey and the Trustees of the Society for allowing me to serve this unique institution for nearly 30 years. They gave me the great gift of allowing me to operate as an in-house entrepreneur and advocate for change, and to participate in a creative endeavor unlike any other on earth.

But 30 years in one base camp is enough, even one as spectacular as NGS. I will continue to look to this Society as a source of inspiration and wonder. My new plans are uncertain, and I am happy about that. It’s time for family, some whimsy, travel and contemplation before my next big adventure.


To: National Geographic Staff
From: John Fahey
Re: Tim Kelly

By now, most of you should have received word of Tim Kelly’s decision to leave the Society at the end of the year. While this is obviously a tough decision, we understand and respect it, and, as he has indicated, we’ll be working closely with him to manage a smooth transition, which I will discuss in more detail at our next all hands meeting this Thursday (9/20) at 2 p.m.

It’s hard to overstate the many contributions that Tim has made to this organization over the past three decades. He has played a key role in the evolution of our operations from a primarily English-only, print-based organization to a multi-media global force. Tim also conceived and led the development of the National Geographic Channels, which launched originally in Europe and Australia in 1997, and then rapidly expanded around the globe, premiering in the United States in 2001. Those successes have been instrumental in fueling the growth of the Society’s exploration, conservation, and educational initiatives.

I also cannot overstate how much I have valued Tim as a colleague and friend. When I first joined the Society in 1996, it was Tim who showed me the ropes, and sensitized me to the Society’s mission, about which he is so passionate. I firmly believe that we would not be as well-positioned as we are today to take on the future had I not had Tim by my side these last few years. It’s my hope — and indeed my expectation — that we’ll be working with him in new and different ways in the years ahead. In the meantime, we wish him the very best as he contemplates his next big adventure.

  • fedup

    John Fahey Question to Executive Staff:

    Do you care about the National Geographic Society’s
    mission of inspiring people to care about the planet?

    Staff Answer:


    John Fahey Reply:

    Executive Staff Member Termination Letter

    You will see over the coming
    months just how many of the Society’s top executives will no longer be on the websites
    executive page – because they stood up for what the society stands for and its
    legacy of the past 100 years.

    John Fahey has effectively
    removed anyone who could stand in the way of the FOX/News Corp hijacking of nat geo and
    what it stands for. Anyone who dare
    question his inane, insane leadership is out, or on the way out with haste.

    FOX has economic control of
    the society and is now doing hunting shows for nat geo and all other kinds of rubbish
    to add to the more rubbish that they already put out daily around the
    world. What pray tell has hunting got
    to do with national geographic? Anybody?

    Do we really need another
    rubbish channel to fill the airwaves, don’t we have FAR too many already? Geographic was the last bastion of
    truth, not controlled by commercial interests left in the US. But not anymore. It’s going the way of the Dodo. It only
    took a few years for the demise of the society before FOX came on board. It’s like cancer – slowly spreading and
    before you know it, you’re in the ground in a box. The FOX BOX.

    The Board who are supposed
    to be caretakers of the society has been stacked by Faheys cronies and now
    outnumber the people who really care about what the society stands for. Wall Street bankers,
    real estate developers and tech execs now outnumber scientists and
    conservationists. The Board has failed
    in their duties to safeguard the society miserably. They have not prevented the catastrophic loss of the removal
    of staff who stood up to Faheys idiocracy – who is unusually for any
    organization – Chairman and CEO at the same time. The ultimate decider of the future of the society is in the
    hands of a fool – whose son by the way works for FOX. It’s nepotism and cronyism at its very

    The only legacy Fahey will
    leave the society is for it to be an empty shell of its former self, a $100 million
    dollar loss in the education business and wait there’s more, the emptying of the treasured
    photographic archives which
    are to go to auction in the near future.
    Cashing out for a bonus perhaps?

    One can only by mystified by
    the catastrophe that Fahey is, and how it’s allowed to continue for another
    day. One should also
    mention his proposal of a new building at the cost of $100+++ million dollars. Another friend of yours? Meanwhile more
    staff are being removed than you can poke a stick at. The morale is in the toilet. The environment is poisonous. And so it goes….

    Shame Shame Shame on you
    John Fahey for your immoral commercial bent and Shame on the board for allowing
    you to remain at the helm. It’s a sad
    time for the world at large to see such a glorious institution go down
    under your leadership. Didn’t you
    do the same thing at your last job a Time and send it broke by the way? Hit the road Jack. You’re a waste of space.

    Signed: Staff member sick and tired of corporate takeovers and seeing good bosses disappear overnight

    • Wow. I know many folks at headquarters are not happy with what’s happening, but few have unloaded with such fury.

      A few thoughts:

      – I think you’re right that the executive housecleaning will continue, especially as we all prepare for the appointment of a new NGS president.

      – Keep your eyes on the Executive Management Council (EMC). I’d bet more changes are on the way.

      – I have a hunch you’ll see two new things rolled out at once: The new membership program, which will be welcomed with much corporate fanfare… and a new Society president who has strong loyalties to our “partners” at Fox, whose ascension will NOT receive much fanfare at all. (The best coup is a silent one.)

      Finally, “sick & tired staff member” — please don’t despair. The story isn’t over yet… but I must admit we’re getting dangerously close!

  • Laurence

    Hi Ross

  • Laurence


  • Guest

    Fedup and Alan: There are many of us staffers who agree with what you say. I come into the office every day wondering who is going to be let go. Is my division (which once used to be looked at with awe) going to be sold to the highest bidder? How many interns and outside contractors can one division have? How many interns can one company have? Geez…I could go on and on…but I’ll wait to see what happens next.

  • Guest

    Reading these letters from Tim Kelly and John Fahey disgusted me. They’ve both made a mockery of everything National Geographic Society stands for.
    I too, joined NG in 1997…moved from my small town to Washington, D.C. with a dream and a love for National Geographic like so many thousands of people.
    I remember Tim Kelly then “early in his career” at NG. He was hitting on me, and any other fresh-faced from college blond with a pulse that he recognized from NG at the YMCA 2 blocks from NG HQ where everyone had NG gym memberships.

    “Tim also conceived and led the development of the National Geographic
    Channels, which launched originally in Europe and Australia in 1997, and
    then rapidly expanded around the globe, premiering in the United States
    in 2001.” I worked on the launch of the Channels Internationally and in the U.S. too, and then I went on to work in other divisions on launches of new endeavors and major initiatives. You’d think that institutional knowledge and experience would count for something. Not at NG. NG is all about hanging their hopes on landing flashy all talk no action smoke & mirrors executives from outside companies (with NO LOYALTY TO NG, and who come and go like a revolving door ever 2-3 years)– courting them (& paying them the huge salaries that come with it) while crying poor to all the hardworking seasoned employees who’ve been there through the hiring freezes, raise freezes and pay cuts.
    This summer, my position was “eliminated”, replaced by 22 year olds I trained, illegal contractors on short term contracts, and unpaid interns of course.
    It’s nice to know that all the years of hard work are not valued by a company that basically says that a trained monkey could do your job.
    I guess an Ivy League education and spending your entire adult career/15 years experience at National Geographic counts for almost nothing- and means you’ll finally get paid 50K after your LAST year, and to be told you should just be glad you weren’t laid off in the past 4 years when over 300 staff members were canned in waves. I could have made more waiting tables all these years…but I loved NG. That was the big mistake, still believing in something which has become a joke and a sorry shell of what it was.
    Well, Tim’s on to bigger and better I’m sure, riding the coattails of all his “accomplishments” made on the backbones of all the people like me.
    To Tim Kelly– Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
    and to John Fahey– by the time you finish canning all the dedicated, in love with NG, hardworking, slaving away for peanuts, loyal employees, who carry the rich organizational history and memory of NG, so that you can do the last thing the Society needs—spending $100 million renovating the NGS buildings into a futuristic glass and metal Jetsons JOKE, by then the whole thing will be a joke. The shell of National Geographic Society.

    • Fedup2

      Dear Guest:

      I am sorry to hear that you lost your job with NGS. It’s so unnecessary.

      Totally agree with what you say here, and want to add some of my thoughts —
      ___They don’t have the money/need for hard working, loyal employees yet do have the money to give golden parachutes to executives like Tim; they have money to throw to architects who probably commanded a large fee for the blueprints of the ridiculous $100+ million renovations of NGS headquarters. ___They don’t want institutional knowledge and experience. The fact that outside contractors, short term contracts, and unpaid interns are prevalent says something right there.___Employee (not management) salaries are ridiculous. You making 50K after 15 years of working at NG is so pathetic. HR would say “If you don’t like it, leave. There are many people waiting in line.” Yes, a true statement but a cop out so they don’t have to deal with problems. They are useless (as you pointed referenced).___I, colleagues, and ex-colleagues used to love NG and believed in the mission. But, in order to survive (emotionally, mentally, and physically), many of us have had to cut the ties. As you say, it’s a joke and a sorry shell of what once was NGS.___JF’s feel-good get-togethers (staff meetings, bike lunches, Friday morning breakfasts) are all designed to make it look like they care about the employees. Joke.___”Trained monkeys”? I’ve heard that term batted around in my division by management.___JF and the Board are to blame for the mess that is NGS.

      Good luck in the future. I hope things work out well for you.

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