- The HFPA, which presents the Golden Globes, has passed new bylaws to reform its culture and boost diversity.
- Koller Search Partners is leading the search for a CEO to drive “culture building and diversity of representation.”
- Koller has vetted 70+ candidates; a veteran producer says the new CEO must “clean house.”
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the Golden Globe Awards group that has been under fire in recent months for its lack of diversity and some of its protocols, voted Wednesday to approve new bylaws intended to reform its culture and diversify its membership.
“Three months ago, we made a promise to commit to transformational change and with this vote we kept the last and most significant promise in reimagining the HFPA and our role in the industry,” said Ali Sar, HFPA Board President, in a statement about the vote. “All of these promised reforms can serve as industry benchmarks and allow us to once again partner meaningfully with Hollywood moving forward.”
The vote comes as the HFPA is on the hunt for its first-ever CEO, with Koller Search Partners leading the search. The group will also be seeking a CFO and a Head of Diversity.
The small but influential organization has faced months of criticism after a Los Angeles Times investigation in February revealed it had no Black members, issued questionable payments to its members, and accepted excessive gifts and trips from Hollywood studios.
A group of powerful entertainment industry publicists in March boycotted the HFPA, withholding their clients from its activities. In May Netflix, Amazon Studios, and Warner Media all declined to participate in any HFPA events until the group’s diversity and ethical issues significantly improved.
NBC, which announced in May that it would not air the Golden Globes in 2022, issued a statement Thursday in response to the vote: “We’re encouraged by the passage of the amended bylaws. This marks a positive step forward and signals the HFPA’s willingness to do the work necessary for meaningful change.”
Dick Clark Productions, which produces the telecast, also responded with a statement of support: “We applaud the adoption of new bylaws, and the important policy revisions over the last few months, as the HFPA strives for reform. We look forward to seeing continued urgency, dedication and positive change in order to create a more diverse, equitable, inclusive and transparent future.”
Group’s first-ever CEO will ‘play a critical role at a pivotal timw’
A job description for the CEO role provided to Insider (embedded below) envisions a leader with media or entertainment and nonprofit experience who can enhance “the visibility of the HFPA through his or her general management and marketing/branding efforts” and “play a critical role at a pivotal time for the Association.” The description also cites the importance of fiscal responsibility, culture building, and diversity of representation.
“The strength needed here is someone who is a strong day-to-day operator who could put everything in order because the amount of change this group is going to have to go through is an immense amount of change over a period of time,” Ed Koller, managing partner and founder of Koller Search Partners, told Insider.
While the Golden Globes have never wielded the clout of the statuettes handed out by the industry’s film and television academies, the Globes telecast has long been a ratings hit for NBC and a prime campaign platform for Oscar contenders. This has given the small group (just over 80 members) outsize influence in Hollywood.
Ahead of Wednesday’s vote, members were divided over the bylaws, with some eager to reform and move forward and others resigning in protest. The Los Angeles Times reported that James Lee, founder and CEO of the Lee Strategy Group and the HFPA’s crisis PR consultant, issued a memo to members in July laying out the stakes of the vote. Lee wrote: “As journalists, you understand what the headline will be if you do not pass these bylaws.”
The choice of Koller and his partner Karen Danziger for the CEO search highlights the HFPA’s desire to repair not only its tarnished reputation in Hollywood but also its credibility with journalists. The firm recently led searches that placed a diverse group of leaders atop three major newspapers: the Los Angeles Times, the Houston Chronicle, and the San Francisco Chronicle.
“I’m going extreme intentionally, but imagine if they brought in someone who’s the editor in chief of, say, The New York Times,” said an entertainment industry executive who has worked with the HFPA. “I think, ‘Oh, this … says they’re really serious about establishing their bona fides as reporters and journalists. This person is going to hold them to it.'”
Top CEO candidates will be screened by a six-person committee that includes HFPA members Sar, Ruben Nepales and Tina Jøhnk Christensen. Independent committee members include Glenn Rogers, a partner at brand agency SCS and a onetime publisher of Variety, and MCG founder Graciela Montgomery, who has held human resources roles at NPR and Disney.
Koller, which has vetted more than 70 candidates so far, plans to present prospects to the committee by the end of this week, with the goal of announcing the new CEO by October 1.
As then-president of IFC & Sundance TV, producer Evan Shapiro was involved in Golden Globes campaigns in 2009 and 2010; he suggests hiring a CEO is a move in the right direction, but must be followed up with decisive leadership.
“I can’t imagine, no matter who they’re hiring, that they’re not going to be saying to this person, ‘We need you to come in and clean house … hose the whole place down, start over from scratch, change the membership, everything,'” said Shapiro, who has an Emmy and a Peabody for his work on shows like “Portlandia.”
“Having been hired at places where things needed to change,” Shapiro added, “it’s easier to make institutional and cultural changes at an organization that is prepared to clean house than one where you have to inherit people who are … looking over your shoulder the whole time and saying, ‘No, that’s not the way we do things.'”
This story was first published on July 29; it has been updated to reflect the HFPA’s August 4 vote to approve new bylaws.