BEVERLY HILLS, CA — Tom Gores, the owner of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons and CEO of Platinum Equity, has stepped down from the board of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art after his company’s investment a prison telephone company that critics claim takes advantage of people of color, according to published reports.
Last month, two groups – Worth Rises and Color of Change – sent a letter to the museum’s leadership group accusing the 56-year-old billionaire of “deliberate exploitation of the Black, Brown, and economically distressed communities”, the Los Angeles Times reported on Friday. The report stated that that activists have pinpointed Gores since his Beverly Hills-based investment firm obtained Securus Technologies in 2017.
According to the report, more than 100 artists and museum donors signed a petition in regard to Gores’ equity firm’s ownership of a company that, The Times reported, has been accused of charging prisoners inflated costs for phone calls while in prison. Gores told the museum’s leadership that his company was in the process of reforming the technologies company at the center of the controversy.
According to the petition on the Worth Rises website, Securus Technologies “rakes in” more than $700 million annually and routinely charges $25 for a 15-minute phone call. The petition also states that Gores recently canceled a meeting with directed impacted families, 87 percent of which are people of color.
The Times reported that after there was no resolution of the matter between Gores and the museum group, Gores sent a letter to museum director Michael Govan and two board chairs that the purchase of the company would become such a lightning rod.
In the letter, Gores said that his company is working to transform Securus Technologies and make it more affordable, more accessible and more supportive of those who are incarcerated and their families.
“We didn’t know when we acquired Securus that it would become a nexus for addressing the political, social, racial and economic issues roiling America today. But now that we are here, we will not shy away from the hard work ahead,” the letter said.
In the letter, Gores characterizes himself and his company as “change agents”, but at the end of the letter appears to acknowledge that he does not see the issues raised by the two criminal justice activism groups and those who signed the petition going away.
“Paraphrasing a salient question at last week’s board meeting: “Okay Tom, we appreciate your efforts to ‘take the hill’ and reform Securus. But why does LACMA have to take the hill with you?,” the letter states.
“The simple answer is: You don’t. Effective immediately, I resign my position on the board and forego all ties to the institution.”