Monday, June 26, 2006


Munitz: Dicey From the Get-Go

As I wrote in Art in America magazine, shortly after Barry Munitz was named to the presidency of the J. Paul Getty Trust, his problematic business track record should have raised a bright red flag for the Getty's board, but, surprisingly, didn't. Here's part of what I published, back in May 1998:

Munitz was among those named in charges filed by the Treasury Department's Office of Thrift Supervision in connection with the 1988 failure of the United Savings Association of Texas. It was "one of the largest [savings and loans] collapses in U.S. history," according to the Houston Post....Munitz was also named in a 1991 Maxxam shareholder lawsuit alleging mismanagement of a real-estate development project and improper exchanges of real estate and securities. That suit was settled...with payments totaling about $25 million.

When I interviewed Munitz in 1998, shortly after the opening of the Trust's new Los Angeles campus, he freely admitted that "whatever happened" at United Savings and Maxxam (a Houston-based holding company for corporate raider Charles Hurwitz), "I was in the middle of it." But he denied any wrongdoing.

Now we know what should have been suspected even back then: The Getty should have thought twice about entrusting the Trust to Munitz.

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