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October 15, 2013

Heinz Fund's Head Resigns Amid Reported Fracking Dispute

The president of the Heinz Endowments is leaving the Pennsylvania philanthropy in what sources suggest to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review could be an outgrowth of internal disputes over the foundation's response to natural-gas drilling, also called fracking, in the state.

Robert Vagt announced his decision Monday to staff and board members. In a prepared statement, he said that with his 67th birthday approaching, "this seemed to be an appropriate time for me to step down." He declined through a spokeswoman to comment further.

Mr. Vagt serves on the board of Kinder Morgan, a firm that operates natural-gas pipelines in western Pennsylvania. His departure after six years as Heinz's president follows the August dismissal of Caren Glotfelty as head of the foundation's environmental program.

Sources said Ms. Glotfelty clashed with Andre Heinz, a board member and the son of foundation Chairwoman Teresa Heinz Kerry, over a grant to establish a research center to pursue safe fracking methods. Mr. Heinz is an advocate of alternative energy technologies such as wind, solar, and biofuel, and in the past the foundation has financed activist groups that oppose fracking.

Read a Chronicle of Philanthropy article on the Heinz Endowments' and other foundations' response to the fracking controversy.