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Wednesday, July 17 News

Ousted Newman’s Own CEO made $270K per year

WESTPORT — Longtime Newman’s Own Foundation president Bob Forrester, who was recently fired amid allegations of inappropriate behavior, took home a salary of approximately $273,000 in 2017, the organization’s 990 forms show.

According to the form, over $5 million in grants were awarded to Westport groups that same year. The Westport-based charity, founded by actor Paul Newman, receives profits from the sale of Newman’s Own food products, a $220 million company that gave away more than $29 million in 2017 alone.

Since the foundation’s start in 1982, more than $535 million has been given to charity, according to the company’s site.

In a statement released Tuesday, the organization said an investigation occurred after allegations were brought forward by employees regarding their experiences working at the foundation. An independent special committee of the board of directors then promptly removed Forrester.

“They are firm in the commitment to uphold the values and culture that Paul Newman established when he founded Newman’s Own and Newman’s Own Foundation,” the statement reads. “There is no tolerance for unacceptable behavior.”

It is unclear when the allegations surfaced or how long the investigation lasted. Jan Schaefer, a spokeswoman for Newman Own’s, said the organization could not comment further.

Forrester, a 77-year-old Avon resident, took the role of president in 2008 when Newman passed away. Forrester was a close friend of Newman’s and considered to be his hand-picked successor.

The special committee has since appointed Jennifer Smith Turner as interim president and CEO. Turner, a Massachusetts resident, has served on the board of directors of Newman’s Own Foundation since 2016.

Turner did not receive a salary while on the board, and it is unclear if she will be paid in her interim role.

She is a retired CEO of the Girl Scouts of Connecticut, where she served as the first CEO of the combined organization of five Girl Scout councils that merged in 2007. She is a graduate of Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., and received her master’s degree from Fairfield University in Fairfield.

According to the foundation’s site, she has additional Connecticut ties through her previous role as deputy commissioner for the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development. She has also served as director of personnel and assistant city manager for Hartford.

When Newman died in 2008 and ownership of the food company passed to his private foundation, a 1969 tax law nearly caused a 200 percent tax hike on the foundation’s assets.

Lawmakers in Hartford would later successfully fight to change language in the bill to make the foundation exempt. There are about 25 other charities similar to the Newman’s Own model, with a for-profit company on one side and a foundation funneling those profits into philanthropy on the other, that also benefited from the language change.

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Local organizations have benefitted from the charity as well, with Westport Volunteer Emergency Medical Service purchasing mechanical CPR devices with a $35,000 grant from the foundation in 2017.

In 2018, the foundation gave a $10,000 grant to Person-to-Person for its Emergency Assistance Program, which provides food, clothing, financial assistance and casework counseling to the working poor and people experiencing a situational crisis.

Newman’s Own Foundation also supports a fellowship program with Westport Country Playhouse. The program is in its fifth year and helps mentor and train young leaders in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors.

In 2015, the foundation also awarded a $75,000 challenge grant to Westport Country Playhouse to increase individual donor support for the theater.

dj.simmons@hearstmediact.com

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