Tense debate preceded the decision to shed the group’s non-profit status, but the awards’ future is far from certain
Now that Golden Globe voters have elected to sell the Hollywood Foreign Press Association to their billionaire interim CEO Todd Boehly in exchange for annual salaries, Hollywood has to decide: does the industry want the awards to come back as before?
The weeks leading up to last week’s vote to sell to Boehly’s Eldridge Industries — a move that will shed the awards show’s non-profit status — were rife with tension and shouting matches among members, even though the vote was overwhelmingly in favor, 76-18. In a final, contentious member meeting, even Boehly threatened to walk away from the deal as he fought to get it across the finish line, according to multiple insiders.
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“I’m getting really tired of this!” Boehly shouted at the members, according to someone who was present. A rep for the HFPA said this is untrue.
But while the HFPA’s 102 members may be thrilled to know they’ll receive a $75,000 per year salary for the next five years in exchange for voting, it is far from clear that Hollywood will go along with the plan. It’s unclear whether NBC will agree to put the awards back on a broadcast channel, and equally unclear whether Hollywood’s stars will show up for the award ceremony.
A prominent publicist for Scarlett Johansson has already gone public with his dissatisfaction with this vote. Marcel Pariseau of True Public Relations wrote HFPA president Helen Hoehne last Friday, “I feel duped and misinformed,” as TheWrap reported exclusively. He demanded: “It is time for transparency.”
NBC has not returned repeated requests for reaction to the vote. Hoehne has not replied to requests for comment.
The international critics group Fipresci that encouraged its members to consider becoming Golden Globe voters — without the benefit of HFPA membership — has apparently backed down from the recommendation. Portuguese journalist Pablo Villaca, a Fipresci member, tweeted that the group “was no longer in the partnership” with the HFPA after the vote.
A rep for Fipresci said in response that they had informed its members of HFPA’s intention to sell but that it does not encourage or discourage its members to behave a certain way.
“They are experienced enough to know what they want,” Fipresci general secretary Klaus Elder said in a statement. “As we had agreed to mediate for a journalistic organization, we considered it fair to inform that the members of the HFPA had voted to transfer the ownership of the Golden Globe Awards to a commercial company. Our members can – as before – decide to vote; or not to vote.”
And in multiple conversations with producers, publicists and executives over the weekend, there is still confusion rather than clarity. No one TheWrap spoke to thought the move to go private made any decisions easier. “The Golden Globes are never coming back,” predicted one former studio head. “They’re done.”
So what does Hollywood do now?
A group of top publicists who led a boycott demanding change at the HFPA are set to meet this week to organize a response to the vote. A small number of publicists, which is said to include the powerful Simon Halls, whose clients include Ridley Scott and Ryan Murphy, is supporting the HFPA vote.
But some insiders who spoke with TheWrap suggested that transparency was hardly the case as the deal became a reality. In late July, the HFPA held a general members meeting about Boehly’s proposal that sparked heated debate and threats. Two individuals with knowledge of the meeting said that HFPA member Elisabeth Sereda said that anyone who leaked information to the press “should be terminated right away, expelled.” Sereda declined to comment. One member who was present called the atmosphere one of “criminal intimidation.”
“They’ve always seemed more upset about leaks and leakers than the actual problems affecting the organization. They’re more concerned about image than potentially trying to solve some of these issues,” Diederik van Hoogstraten, a freelance writer and former HFPA member, told TheWrap, adding that as an association of journalists, he as a member always strove for more integrity and transparency, not just with publicists but with audiences. “I think they’re going the opposite way.”
Another source said that during the vote on Friday about the proposal, Boehly became irritated, tired and did not want to hear any more questions about the matter. A rep for the HFPA denied this and said that Boehly stayed to answer every question asked and provided an additional in-person session to answer member questions.
Shortly after, member Ersi Danou sent a mass email written in all capital letters opposing Boehly’s proposal, something that was quickly rebutted by other HFPA leadership. In the letter, Danou claimed that Boehly was “obliterating” any counter proposals and that agreeing to such a deal would allow Eldridge to sell the assets of the Golden Globes over a period of 10 years, leaving the HFPA and its members in limbo and unable to decide on their future. Danou did not reply to multiple requests for comment.
The HFPA, in announcing the sale on Thursday, said that Boehly was not part of the review, recommendation or approval process and that the HFPA’s financial adviser Houlihan Lokey, its legal adviser Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP and a special committee of outside members reviewed multiple proposals from other companies and investment groups.
TheWrap previously reported that one proposal came from Pacific Coast Entertainment, a firm co-owned by former Film Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs. In a letter previously obtained by TheWrap, PCE accused the HFPA of a “not equitable” process to determine a change in ownership, saying it felt “curated to fix an outcome.” Boone Isaacs is also among the critics who have previously raised concerns about Boehly’s ownership of MRC, the production company that produces the Golden Globes telecast and which takes half of the $60 million licensing fee from NBC.
And while the HFPA has previously defended its process — and Boehly has denied having a conflict of interest as the interim CEO — one former HFPA member claimed that Hoehne had informed membership that PCE’s offer was not a serious one and that current members did not formally hear the specifics of their proposal. An HFPA rep told TheWrap, reiterating previous comments, that PCE did not submit a formal, complete offer or proposal that met all of the qualifications for consideration and did not receive an official term sheet. As TheWrap reported, Hoehne even privately claimed that the leak of PCE’s email to members “grossly misrepresents” conversations the organizations had.
“It was a yard sale with one buyer,” the former member said. PCE and Boone Isaacs did not respond to a new request for comment.
The former member claimed the only question from a more senior member was simply whether they would receive the $75,000 in a single, one-time payment. The former member said that the HFPA’s lawyer noted they’d be “crazy” not to accept an offer that could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. An HFPA rep said no lawyer made any such comment.
Boehly has been angling to take over the HFPA since as far back as 2014, a separate former member said, and it’s only been with the change in leadership and support from Hoehne and other allies that he’s been able to finally do so. As a means of perhaps greasing the wheels for a deal, for weeks members have been under the impression that an announcement about the return of the Golden Globes on NBC would be imminent, even as the network has not given any indication on a decision. And despite rumors that have been circulating that somehow the 2024 Golden Globes could wind up streamed on Amazon, insiders from both Amazon and the HFPA have swatted that notion down as simply not possible and a “pure fantasy.”
As the Globes transition into private ownership, the sale will still have to go through a lengthy regulatory approval that involves a transfer of assets and steps to preserve the HFPA’s charitable functions, which as announced on Thursday will be its own separate non-profit organization. And it’s unclear how long such a process could take.
But in the meantime, it will be up to the Hollywood publicists to decide whether they wish to lift a boycott and allow their talent to resume to work with the HFPA again, which as of late April was still in effect.
Other sources who spoke with TheWrap argue that to some degree, going private makes some sense. The HFPA is not the only for-profit awards entity in town, such as the Hollywood Film Awards or even the People’s Choice Awards. Other awards shows like the SAG Awards have lost their long-time platform as interest and ratings for awards shows in general has waned. And as freelance journalists struggle to make money or find fewer publications for their work, such a move might be necessary.
But being transparent about their members, their finances or their practices won’t be necessary as a for-profit organization, as legal experts who previously spoke to TheWrap have pointed out, and it will be up to Hollywood to decide whether they’re prepared to return to business as usual with the new Golden Globes.
“I think it’s the end of the Golden Globes and the HFPA as a serious awards entity…these organizations all have their issues, but at least they’re trying,” van Hoogstraten said. “The HFPA has totally given up on that.”