Kenneth Cole Steps Down as amfAR Chairman Following Harvey Weinstein Controversy

*This story was updated on Feb. 10 with a statement from amfAR.

After more than 30 years on amfAR’s board — and 14 years as its chairman — Kenneth Cole has stepped down.

His departure from the AIDS research charity comes months after allegations surfaced that Cole may have been involved in a suspicious deal with disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

“Although 14 years later, my term as chairman concludes, it has been a true privilege to have worked alongside so many talented, dedicated, committed individuals,” Cole said in a speech at last night’s amfAR gala in New York. “Being chairman of this great organization has been one of the most meaningful highlights of my professional career.”

The gala raised $1.6 million to support the organization’s fight against HIV/AIDS. To date, the organization has brought in more than $19 million.

“Though I am stepping aside, I am not stepping away from the mission to end AIDS,” Cole said in a statement, explaining that he and four other board members are bowing out after the amfAR board adopted term limits as part of governance reforms. He will assist in the selection of a new chairman as well as continue in his roles as an international goodwill ambassador on behalf of UNAIDS and as chairman of the End AIDS Coalition.

Last fall, more than 60 AIDS activists penned an open letter pressuring Cole to resign after reports claimed that in 2015, he and the media mogul diverted $600,000 in funds raised by the organization at a Cannes gala to pay back investors at the American Repertory Theater for staging a trial run of Weinstein passion project “Finding Neverland” before it opened on Broadway.

The scandal made headlines within the same month that Weinstein was fired from his production company after dozens of women came forward to accuse him of sexual harassment, assault or rape.

Here is amfAR’s full statement about its new direction and the departure of Cole and other board members:

“At their annual meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 7, the Board of Trustees of amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, voted on a series of reforms that will enable the foundation to continue to operate at the highest standards of governance. 

Recognizing that the recruitment of new trustees is essential to the foundation’s continuing evolution and progress, the board voted unanimously to implement term limits for Trustees. The trustees whose terms were expiring at this meeting and who had served longer than the term limits adopted, graciously agreed to rotate off the Board after serving the foundation with distinction. They are: Donald Capoccia, Kenneth Cole, Vincent Roberti, Mervyn F. Silverman, M.D., M.P.H., and John Simons. 

We are very grateful to these five trustees for their years of service on the Board, and especially appreciative of our Chair, Kenneth Cole, who has served this organization for 30 years with extraordinary dedication. Under his leadership we have raised hundreds of millions of dollars for AIDS research, had a profound impact on millions of people’s lives, and gotten closer to our ultimate goal of finding a cure for this insidious disease.”

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