NGS President? That job title no longer exists.

Tim Kelly, President of the National Geographic Society,
will resign at the end of the year.

What happens next?
According to John Fahey, NGS Chairman & CEO….  

That was part of the message John delivered
to the NGS staff at an all-hands meeting on Wednesday.

More details coming soon.

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
Re: 30 YEARS OF EXPLORATION AND ADVENTURE — AND NEW HORIZONS

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.

NGS contract with Zahi Hawass is ruled illegal

Zahi Hawass
is a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Emeritus
,

and the former head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities. 

{ Read the whole thing here. }

Related notes (via a variety of sources):

  • This ruling is not a conviction of Zahi Hawass. However, the judge did determine that when Dr. Hawass signed the contract with National Geographic, he violated Egyptian law.
  • Why was the contract illegal? Because it was not signed with a government, museum, or scientific institute — a clear violation of Article 10 of Law #117. According to one source, Zahi tried to persuade former U.S. ambassador Margaret Scobey to officially endorse the exhibit, which would have made the contract a legal agreement with a foreign government, but she refused. Her letter to that effect was apparently introduced as evidence during the hearing.
  • The court also ruled the contract was a violation of Egyptian law because then-President Mubarak never approved the deal.
  • Minister of Antiquities Mohammed Ibrahim says he will comply with the court order and will review the legal steps needed to bring Cleopatra home.
  • What about the Tut exhibit, which is now on display in Seattle, Washington — also under the auspices of National Geographic? Another court case begins in early October to determine whether Tut should return home, too.
  • In Egypt, Zahi Hawass, who was a staunch defender of President Mubarak to the bitter end, remains in legal jeopardy. And as one very prominent face of the old regime, Zahi is not a popular man in Egypt. According to one source: “The contracts for the exhibits might become part of charges against Zahi for accepting bribes. Now we know it was Zahi himself who signed the contracts (and not some other Egyptian government official) with National Geographic and AEG/AE for the exhibits, and we know from the 990 forms he was taking payments from National Geographic at the same time. This is a crime under Egyptian law and it may be a violation of the FCPA [Foreign Corrupt Practices Act] in the U.S. as well. … Investigators are working hard to collect more documents to build a watertight case against him. Zahi may be referred to trial within weeks.”

Does this mean that our Society may have violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act? Let’s hope & pray that we have not.

_____

This illegal contract — and the disturbing possibility of bribery and corruption charges — reminds us of two stories we posted last year….

The first story is about Terry Garcia, the Society’s EVP for Mission Programs who worked closely with Zahi Hawass for many years. In May 2011, President Obama nominated Terry to become the next Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce. But when the nomination stalled months later, Terry withdrew himself from consideration without explaining why.

(I called Terry’s office last year for comment, but he was “in a meeting” — and never called back.)

Zahi Hawass and Terry Garcia (via drhawass.com)

The second story is Zahi’s very public embrace of Terry Garcia — and Tim Kelly & John Fahey — just as the Senate nomination process began in May 2011, and just as Zahi’s government career in Egypt was crashing & burning along with the Mubarak regime. “Terry is one of the greatest friends that I have ever had in my life,” Zahi begins his blog post. “When I think about my closest friends, Terry is at the top of the list!

Zahi then describes how Terry was a key player in the funding and organization of the Tutankhamun exhibition. At the end of the post, Zahi says: “I have faith that my two other good friends at National Geographic, John Fahey and Tim Kelly, will continue to support Egypt in the way that Terry has in the past.”  (Read the whole thing here.)

Given that Zahi probably knew that his dealings with National Geographic were legally questionable, his energetic and very public embrace of Terry, Tim, and John sounds less like an endorsement or a heartfelt “thank you,” and more like an attempt to share the glare of a media and legal spotlight which Zahi must have worried he might ultimately occupy alone.

It’s almost as if Zahi is saying: You and me, guys — we’re all in this together! 

For the sake of our Society’s reputation, it would be helpful to hear something — anything at all — from Terry, Tim or John about their dealings with Dr. Hawass, whose status inexplicably changed last year from National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence to National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence (Emeritus).

It’s no big mystery why “their freedoms are slipping away”


From the story:

… Leung Kwok Hung—a leading pro-democracy activist and legislative council member known as Long Hair, for the hippie mane that falls between his shoulder blades—rails against what he sees as a growing prohibition against free speech. “The police kowtow to Beijing, because if you say no to what the Communist Party wants, you’re saying no to your career,” he says. “But that extends to government officials too, and the tycoons who own the media or want to do business in China. ….”

Chris Johns & Terry Adamson pose with our new publishing partners in the People’s Republic of China (2007).

Chris & Terry shake hands with our new partners.

Chris Johns & Terry Adamson celebrate NGM's new publishing partnership in the People's Republic of China. (2007)

James Cameron, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence

Tim Kelly, President of the National Geographic Society

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp is the majority owner of the National Geographic Channel.

John Fahey National Geographic

John Fahey, NGS CEO

Dear Ai Weiwei: Yes, we know it. But your mission is no longer ours. Sincerely, The National Geographic Society

James Cameron, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence

Tim Kelly, President of the National Geographic Society

Chris Johns & Terry Adamson celebrate NGM's new publishing partnership in the People's Republic of China. (2007)

 John Fahey National Geographic

____
≡  Ai Weiwei graphic from Beware of Images
≡  James Cameron quote from The New York Times
≡  Tim Kelly quote from The Hollywood Reporter
≡  Chris Johns & Terry Adamson cartoon & imagined quotes by Society Matters

Zahi Hawass is back in the news — and so is our Society

Last June, I posted a news item about accusations that Zahi Hawass — a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence (Emeritus) — had taken revenue from overseas exhibitions of rare Egyptians artifacts and funneled the cash to the family of toppled President Hosni Mubarak.

This week the story has taken a new and troubling turn — especially for our Society:

Ahram Online, Monday 2 Apr 2012

General Prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmoud on Monday referred charges of wasting public money and stealing Egyptian antiquities against Zahi Hawass, former minister of state for antiquities to the Public Fund Prosecution office.

Nour El-Din Abdul-Samad, Director of Archeological Sites, had filed the accusations against Hawass, and requested that the objects in question be returned to the Egyptian Museum.

The Public Funds Prosecution office also received other charges accusing Hawass of wasting public money and exposing Egyptian antiquities to stealing in collaboration with former regime members.

Hawass is accused of sealing a deal with the American Geographical Society [National Geographic Society] to display rare Egyptian antiquities in exhibitions across the United States and Australia, violating the law of protecting antiquities.

Hawass admitted in a television talk show that he had a 17 million dollar deal with the American Geographical Society [National Geographic Society] with regard to a Tutankhamun exhibition to raise donations for Suzanne Mubarak’s association, wife of former president Hosni Mubarak. Suzanne Mubarak’s association was a private association not a state body, and as such Hawass was not legally allowed to use his position as a state minister to raise funds for it.

The charges relate to Hawass agreeing to transfer and display 143 objects from the Egyptian Museum to Washington DC in 2003. The antiquities have yet to be returned to the museum.

These exhibitions violate the antiquities law that prohibits renting Egypt’s heritage.  {emphasis added}

From the Egypt Independent:

… In March 2011, Hawass denied signing an agreement with the American Geographical Society (National Geographic). Rather, he claimed that it was protocol whereby Egypt received a cat scan machine worth US$5 million for Egyptian scientists to conduct research on the mummy of Tutankhamun, in return for National Geographic to film the scientific work.

At the time, National Geographic was to pay an additional US$60,000 to the treasury of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

If these charges are true, and Zahi Hawass really did commit a crime, then two other stories from last year suddenly seem relevant again….

The first story is about Terry Garcia, the Society’s EVP for Mission Programs who worked closely with Zahi for many years. Last May, President Obama nominated Terry to become the next Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce. But when the nomination stalled months later, Terry withdrew himself from consideration without explaining why.

(I called Terry’s office last year for comment, but he was “in a meeting” — and never called back.)

Zahi Hawass and Terry Garcia (via drhawass.com)

The second story is Zahi’s very public embrace of Terry Garcia — and Tim Kelly & John Fahey — just as the Senate nomination process began last May, and just as Zahi’s government career in Egypt was crashing & burning along with the Mubarak regime. “Terry is one of the greatest friends that I have ever had in my life,” Zahi begins his blog post. “When I think about my closest friends, Terry is at the top of the list!

Zahi then describes how Terry was a key player in the funding and organization of the Tutankhamun exhibition. At the end of the post, Zahi says: “I have faith that my two other good friends at National Geographic, John Fahey and Tim Kelly, will continue to support Egypt in the way that Terry has in the past.”  (Read the whole thing here.)

Given the recent criminal allegations by Egypt’s General Prosecutor, Zahi’s energetic and very public embrace of Terry, Tim, and John begins to sound less like an endorsement or a heartfelt “thank you,” and more like an attempt to share the glare of a media and legal spotlight which Zahi must have worried he might ultimately occupy alone.

It’s almost as if Zahi is saying: You and me, guys — we’re all in this together! 

For the sake of our Society’s reputation, it would be helpful to hear something — anything at all — from Terry, Tim or John about their dealings with Dr. Hawass, whose status inexplicably changed last year from National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence to National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence (Emeritus).

The Great Convergence, Executive Edition

Message from NGS President Tim Kelly

via NG Communications, 1 February 2012

Today I announced a major reorganization designed to more closely align our print publishing and digital teams and further accelerate transformational growth across the Society. Declan Moore has been named President, Publishing and Digital Media, and John Caldwell will report to him in John’s new capacity as Chief Digital Officer.

Our future success will depend on our ability to create, coordinate and deliver cutting edge editorial that works across all of our platforms and for all of our audiences, serving our Channels as well as our Membership, Enterprises and Mission programs. This new structure, led by Declan and John, empowers everyone on the team with a broader view, which can only enhance our impact.

While this reorganization strengthens and streamlines our activities, it also means we’re eliminating the Chief Operating Officer role within Global Media, which impacts Ted Prince. While change is inevitable, in this kind of situation it is also incredibly hard. Ted has played an important role in the success of our Channels to date, and our growth in digital media, including our expansion into mobile, apps and games, and he has been personally instrumental in recruiting much of the incredible talent that is powering us into the future. I’m delighted that Ted will continue to contribute to NGS on a consulting basis, helping us refine our international media strategy for new digital platforms, and it’s our hope that we’ll continue to find ways to work together going forward.

As part of the reorganization, Maryanne Culpepper, president of NG Television, will report to me.

At the same time, Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President Chris Liedel and I are also announcing the formation of a centralized Finance group and the promotion of Mike Ulica to Deputy Chief Financial Officer, reporting to Chris. Adam Sutherland, senior vice president for Corporate Strategy and Development, will now report to Mike.

In other moves intended to further streamline our operations, Stavros Hilaris has been named Chief Technology Officer, reporting to Chris Liedel, and will also become a member of the Executive Management Committee (EMC). Over the next few months, he and Chris will work with John Nguyen to integrate our various IT and related technology activities. The goal is to create a more agile, nimble and focused organization that puts both our technology and financial expertise, systems and talent into centralized groups that can better serve the entire organization.

Meet Ashok Amritraj, yet another independent manager of the National Geographic brand

Despite earlier reports, National Geographic Films didn’t actually die. Instead, it’s been “folded into” a company called Hyde Park Entertainment, whose Chairman & CEO is Ashok Amritraj.

According to IMDb, Mr. Amritraj is “known for” producing four films (above), the trailers for which we’ve put into a playlist (below).

Is Mr. Amritraj the sort of film producer who will take good care of the National Geographic brand? Is he the type of film executive who channels his creative talents and financial resources into projects that “inspire people to care about the planet”? Let’s go to the video:

Here’s Tim Kelly, President of National Geographic (via The Hollywood Reporter):

We like Hyde Park’s approach to the business, their growth and success in Asia, and the fact that Ashok and his team are already working closely with our partner, Image Nation,” Tim Kelly, President of National Geographic Society, said in a prepared statement. “This partnership makes sense from all angles, and by folding our current feature film effort into this new venture, we will be able to pursue bigger, more ambitious projects and expand into growing markets like India and China.”

Ah, of course: China. The Motherlode for global media executives everywhere. Can’t believe we almost forgot.

“Today, the West feels very shy about human rights and the political situation. They’re in need of money. But every penny they borrowed or made from China has really come as a result of how this nation sacrificed everybody’s rights. With globalization and the Internet, we all know it. Don’t pretend you don’t know it. … It’s getting worse, and it will keep getting worse.

— Ai Weiwei 

 

__________

John Fahey, Chairman & CEO of the National Geographic Society

Silence empowers bullies

The turmoil in Cairo:

A man injured during clashes between the two factions of protesters on Wednesday. (via The New York Times)

Petrol bombs were also used to intimidate opponents. (via BBC News)

Egyptian soldiers restrain a supporter of President Hosni Mubarak who tried to get to opposition lines near Tahrir Square. (Goren Tomasevic / Reuters via The Los Angeles Times)

__________

At the National Geographic Society,
here’s the official reaction to this violent crackdown
on Egyptians struggling for freedom & democracy:

__________

Here’s the official NGS reaction
to threats posed to scenic landscapes:

NGM October 2006

__________

Here’s the official NGS reaction to tyranny,
back when National Geographic understood that
democracy & freedom are essential
to the future of our society — and our Society.

__________

We learned the hard way that silence empowers bullies.
So why are NGS leaders silent now?

Our Society’s Deafening Silence

“… In short, the world must strenuously object to the Chinese model for development which decouples economic and political reform by unapologetically asserting that anything, including domestic and international oppression, can be justified if it is viewed to enable economic growth.

International scrutiny of the Chinese government’s widespread violation of fundamental rights at home and abroad is not meddling in its “internal affairs”; it flows from its legal commitments to respect the inherent dignity and equality of every person.

(via Reporters Without Borders)

Though he is just one of 1.3 billion, the story of this year’s Nobel peace prize laureate, Dr Liu Xiaobo, is sadly emblematic of the Chinese government’s intolerance to individual expression….

China doesn’t just violate the human rights of its citizens, it coddles and supports brutal dictatorships around the world. The authoritarian regimes in Burma, Sudan and North Korea, whose actions continue to threaten international peace and security, remain free to commit mass atrocities against its peoples because of bilateral support and billions of dollars of weapons supplied by Beijing….”

“The world must strenuously object…,” say Havel and Tutu. But here’s what National Geographic executives have added to this urgent public discussion:

In related news:

NGM China launched in 2007.

We hear you thinking that all-too-familiar refrain: National Geographic isn’t about inspiring people to care about human rights, freedom, and democracy; National Geographic is about inspiring people to care about the planet.

Well, now it is, but NGS was clearly about something very different from the 1940s through the 1970s, when the Society’s membership soared, and the Magazine became a familiar & much beloved publication to tens of millions of people around the world.

Just ask the host of this talk show on Russian TV:

_____

_____
photos
≡   Vaclav Havel via Speaker Associates
≡  Desmond Tutu via thefamouspeople.com


NO NEW POSTS will be published here after February 6, 2014. THIS IS WHY.