(The following article originally appeared in the October 27, 1993 issue of the now-defunct alternative Lower East Side weekly, Downtown. Between 2007 and its recent bankruptcy, Reader’s Digest has been owned by Citigroup board member Tim Collins’ Ripplewood Holdings’ private investment/leveraged buy-out firm. See below for parts 1 to 5 of article).
Reader’s Digest was also connected, historically, to the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company—one of the giant “Big Five” insurance companies which apparently stood to benefit most from the 1990s Clinton administration’s [initial version of the Democratic Obama Administration’s] health care reform plan. During the early 1990s, the then-chairman of the board at Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, Robert Schwartz, also sat on the board of the Reader’s Digest Association’s corporate board and another Reader’s Digest Association board member in the 1990s, a former U.S. Secretary of Defense named Melvin Laird, also sat on Metropolitan Life’s corporate board in the 1990s.
In the 1990s, the “non-profit” Metropolitan Museum of Art then owned about 11 percent of the nonvoting stock of the then-highly profitable Reader’s Digest. In 1991, for example, the net income of the Reader’s Digest Association exceeded $200 million and it was then the 209th largest corporation in the United States.
Coincidentally, a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the early 1990s—George Grune—was then the chairman of the board of the Reader’s Digest Association and he took home an annual salary of $1.2 million in the early 1990s. In addition to being Reader’s Digest’s board chairman at that time, Grune also sat on the corporate of Chemical Bank in the early 1990s.
Downtown telephoned the Communications Department of the Metropolitan Museum of Art three times in the Fall of 1993 to ask a museum spokesperson to characterize the nature of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s historical connection to Reader’s Digest. But no one at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Communications Department was available to communicate any comments about its historical Reader’s Digest connection in the Fall of 1993.
Sitting next to then-Reader’s Digest board chairman Grune on the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s board of trustees in the early 1990s was the then-New York Times Company Board Chairman Arthur Ochs Sulzberger. In the early 1990s, Sulzberger was the chairman of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s board of trustees and Sulzberger’s son—Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr.—held the post of New York Times publisher. Another New York Times Company board member in the 1990s—former IBM corporate board chairman John Akers—also sat next to then-Reader’s Digest Association board chairman Grune on the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s board of trustees in the early 1990s.
The then-Reader’s Digest Association Chairman Grune also sat next to the following other “art lovers” on the Metropolitan Museum of Art board of trustees in the early 1990s: then-CBS Chairman of the Board Laurance Tisch; then-CBS Director James Houghton; then-New York magazine owner Henry Kravis; and Kissinger Associates Chairman Henry Kissinger. (end of part 6)