As both artists and activists called for his ouster, billionaire Tom Gores officially stepped down from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s board of trustees on Thursday, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Gores, owner of the Detroit Pistons and CEO of Platinum Equity, has been under fire for his company’s acquisition of the prison telecom company Securus Technologies, which has been accused of charging inmates exorbitant rates to make phone calls. On September 9, prison reform advocacy group Worth Rises and racial justice organization Color of Change sent a letter to LACMA director Michael Govan and the museum’s board co-chairs demanding that Gores be removed from his seat on the museum’s board. The letter slammed Gores for his “active participation in the prison industry and deliberate exploitation of Black, Brown, and economically distressed communities.” Shortly afterward, a follow-up letter was sent to LACMA that was signed by more than 100 notable artists, curators, collectors, and influencers, accusing the museum of failing to uphold the standards of social responsibility it adopted in the wake of the George Floyd protests.
In a letter announcing his resignation from the board, Gores defended his company’s investment in Securus and his role as a force for reform, but agreed that his presence on the board shouldn’t be a burden for the museum or a distraction from its mission.
“Paraphrasing a salient question at last week’s board meeting: ‘Okay Tom, we appreciate your efforts to ‘take the hill’ and reform Securus. But why does LACMA have to take the hill with you?'” Gores writes in the letter. “The simple answer is: You don’t. Effective immediately, I resign my position on the board and forego all ties to the institution.”
A member of LACMA’s board since 2006, Gores has been the subject of activist ire since 2018, but calls for his resignation became louder in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, as a reckoning with racism reverberated through the museum world.
Worth Rises has yet to react to Gores’s decision; a petition for his ouster is still live on their website.
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