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Getty Benefits: Michael Brand’s Severance Pot Was Recently Sweetened

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J. Paul Getty Museum’s Los Angeles campus

The terms of Getty Museum director Michael Brand‘s severance package are hiding in plain sight in the Compensation Disclosure section of the Getty Trust’s website, as was helpfully pointed out to me this evening by the Getty Trust’s vice president for communications, Ron Hartwig.

Scroll down to p. 5, “Senior Management Compensation,” which was updated just three weeks ago. What’s interesting is that those terms are more generous than those posted on the Getty’s website the previous year. (Was that done in anticipation of his departure?)

Here are the current terms:

Dr. Brand’s employment agreement provides severance benefits (unless Dr. Brand is terminated for
“cause”) that include a lump sum cash payment equal to twelve months salary, as well as health care
coverage for him and his family for up to twelve months, both reduced by amounts earned by Dr. Brand
from any successor employer within twelve months after his employment with the Trust ends.

He may
continue to use the [Getty Trust-owned] Residence for an additional 10 months, or if he elects to vacate earlier, he receives
a monthly amount equal to rent, maintenance and utilities for comparable housing for the remaining
period not to exceed 10 months total. He also receives relocation expenses in an amount comparable
to those paid by the Trust in connection with his relocation to Los Angeles.

His severance benefits under the prior year’s terms (again, p. 5) did not include anything contained in the second paragraph (housing and/or rent, maintenance and utilities, relocation expenses to move elsewhere).

As reported on p. 3 of the above-linked “Compensation Disclosure” document, Brand’s 2009 base pay, effective last July 1, is $513,079; his “housing allowance & imputed value” is $279,539. According to Hartwig, he will also get “a lump sum pension payment, less than $100,000.”

In a written response to my written questions, Hartwig stated that no other benefits or cash payments outside of the published severance benefits will be received by Brand in connection with his departure, and there is no agreement that binds the parties to remain silent about the reasons for his leaving.

I also asked if the severance agreement applies in a case such as this, where the employee has elected, of his own accord, to leave. Hartwig replied:

Michael is entitled to the severance pursuant to his agreement with the Trust.

Hartwig also reconfirmed that it was Brand’s decision to leave. He wasn’t terminated.

As for the reasons behind Brand’s abrupt departure, both the NY Times and LA Times are now corroborating my surmise that tension between him and James Wood, the Getty Trust’s president, may have been an important factor. The LA Times, in an update bolstered by the reporting of Jason Felch of the famous Felcholino team (whatever happened to their promised book on the Getty?), speculates about Brand’s and Wood’s possible “differences of opinion over the Getty’s strategic vision.” The NY Times said the two officials are thought to have “sharply different ideas about the direction the museum should take.”

Both newspapers arrived at their conclusions after discussions with unnamed artworld sources. Both also pointed to the difficulties inherent in a governance structure that puts a CEO over a museum director on the organization chart.

The LA paper revealed that “current and former Getty officials pointed to a ‘personality clash’” between the director and president.

In other words, we still don’t know what’s going on. So until I hear differently, I choose to believe that this purported clash is all about their different tastes in music. Just look at the eclectic list that Brand selected (and discussed) for the Nov. 18 edition of radio station KCRW‘s Guest DJ Project:

Bob Marley: Small Axe (Paul & Price Remix)
Nick Cave & Kylie Minogue: Where the Wild Roses Grow
Dengue Fever: Tiger Phone Card
Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu: Gurrumul History (I Was Born Blind)
Animal Collective: My Girls

I strongly suspect these are not anywhere to be found among James Wood’s favorites. In fact, I would speculate (without any knowledge) that Jim’s playlist might lean more towards Philippe’s picks.

While we await Wood’s turn at the turntable (and Brand’s announcement of his next gig), here’s DJ Mike in November with KCRW host Jason Bentley:

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