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August 01, 2016

Road to Hershey Trust Deal Paved With 'Toxic' Board Battles

In its DealBook column, The New York Times traces the web of business deals and board disputes that brought on last week’s agreement with Pennsylvania regulators to reform governance at the Hershey Trust.

On Friday, state Attorney General Kathleen Kane formally announced the pact with the $12 billion charity, which operates the Milton Hershey School for needy children and has a controlling stake in the Hershey Company, the world’s largest chocolate maker and target of a recent takeover bid, the Associated Press reports. The agreement will usher out five long-serving board members by the end of 2017 and sets term limits and compensation caps for trustees who have collected millions of dollars in pay and perks.

The Times article sets out the trust’s origins in the fortune and philanthropy of candy magnate Milton Hershey; its interlocking charitable and corporate structures; and controversies over board compensation, "toxic" internal squabbles, and the trust's purchase of a failing golf course.

“While the [trust’s] money is earmarked explicitly for disadvantaged children, its fate is decided by grown-ups,” columnist David Segal writes. “And while they may care deeply about the school, at the same time some are being enriched financially, and others — mostly elected officials — have shown motivations more political and economic than scholastic.”

Read a Chronicle of Philanthropy column about the Hershey Trust scandals and their impact on its school.