Tuesday, March 23, 2010
When Judith Rothschild died in 1993 she established the Judith Rothschild Foundation and named her friend, Harvey S. Shipley Miller, as its sole trustee. The foundation held her extensive art collection, valued at $34 million when she died. The foundation worked "to promote public awareness of recently deceased American artists' achievements" (from the foundation's website) and has benefited cultural organizations around the country through gifts of money and art. Now the New York Times reports the New York Attorney General is investigating the foundation. There have been no allegations of financial wrongdoing, but the New York Times article raises questions of whether Mr. Miller has benefitted inappropriately from his role. Mr. Miller has paid himself a nice salary of $200,000 in some years (although in one year he took no salary), lived in Ms. Rothschild's house rent-free until it was sold (to provide security for the artwork), and had a fellowship at the University of California law school named after himself. Some art critics have noted, however, that he has worked hard to serve Ms. Rothschild's interests and to honor his friend, and that he has "done an extremely good job of enhancing and sustaining Rothschild's position."