For many years, the Golden Globes were the kickoff awards event of each awards show season. With its relaxed party atmosphere and awards only in high-profile categories, the Globes were an audience favorite and a fixture on NBC. The Globes retained this perch despite persistent questions regarding the selection of winners.
The Golden Globes are awarded by the Hollywood Foreign Press Associate (HFPA), a nonprofit organization with fewer than 100 voting members. These individuals include a number of part-time freelance journalists for obscure European publications. The HFPA has been the subject of frequent controversy over the susceptibility of members to being influenced by free travel, swag and other perks. Critics of the awards have also pointed out their failure to nominate women and persons of color.
The lid blew off in 2021 when the Los Angeles Times published an exposé just days before the 2021 Golden Globes telecast. Among other things, the article accused the HFPA of making improper payments to its members for serving on committees. It also revealed that the organization did not include a single Black member. As a result of the controversy, NBC cancelled the 2022 Globes broadcast.
This left the HFPA scrambling to regain its relevancy. It adopted new bylaws to increase diversity, accountability and transparency, but with the loss of its share of the $60 million NBC broadcast license fee, it was certainly not out of the woods.
Then on May 13 of this year, the HFPA leadership announced that they had negotiated a term sheet turn the organization into a for-profit entity owned by its current CEO, the hedge fund billionaire Todd Boehly. This proposal quickly stirred controversy. Boehly was accused of self-dealing, since as the HFPA CEO, he would be involved in the decision-making to sell HFPA assets to an entity under his control. Boehly also owns MRC, the company that produces the Globes for NBC. Some thought that other proposals in the term sheet would affect the integrity of the awards, such as the creation of a two-tier system of Globes voters, an inner circle who would share in the profits of the show and an additional 200 new voters who would not be members of the new entity and would not share in profits. A final concern is that the reorganized entity would be even less transparent than it is now, since nonprofit organizations are subject to mandatory financial disclosure rules while privately-held companies are not.
One of the loudest critics of Boehly’s proposal was Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the former President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. This was not motivated entirely by concern over the integrity of the award. Isaacs made her own bid to take over the HFPA through her company Pacific Coast Entertainment (PCE).
Isaacs sent a term sheet to HFPA members and its board of directors that differs widely from the Boehly proposal. Under her proposal, the HFPA would remain a nonprofit organization. PCE would share 20% of its revenues from Globes-related activities and guarantee HFPA members salaries of $120,000 plus health insurance, a 401(k) and other benefits. Isaacs and her partner Yusef D. Jackson, Jesse Jackson’s son, say that through their industry connections they have already attracted early interest from potential network distributors, and that they intend to find a new production partner for the show. In an email to HFPA members, Isaacs stressed that the proposal is a long-term investment rather than a “corporate takeover.”
Reaction from the HFPA has been cool. Isaacs was scolded for communicating directly with the entire membership by Houlihan Lokey, HFPA’s consultants, and by Helene Hoehne, HFPA’s president. Both noted that key information would still be necessary in order to evaluate PCE’s proposal.