Academy Museum Fundraising Chief to Step Down (Exclusive)

©Renzo Piano Building Workshop/©A.M.P.A.S.
Academy Museum

Having raised $250 million in commitments toward the Motion Picture Academy's new museum, Bill Kramer is taking a new job on the East Coast.

Bill Kramer, a key figure in launching the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ new museum, is stepping down from his post, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

Kramer, who has led the massive fundraising drive for the ambitious museum project in Los Angeles, informed the Oscars organization on Monday that he will leave in December to take a new position at the Rhode Island School of Design. The Academy’s board of governors was informed on Tuesday of his decision.

Kramer's departure was confirmed in a bond offering filed by the Academy this week in connection with the museum project. It notes that the organization "intends to hire a new Managing Director for fundraising before the end of 2015.”

Kramer, who joined the museum project as managing director, development in March 2012, reporting to Academy CEO Dawn Hudson, has been a major force in pushing the controversial museum project forward. Even as some critics have grumbled about the cost, design, neighborhood impact and overall mission of the film history museum, the Academy has received $250 million in commitments and pledges in the capital campaign that it began in 2011, according to Kramer. He spoke with THR about the project’s finances earlier on Thursday, before the details about his pending departure were known. "At this point, we are very far along in the campaign," he said.

Once THR learned about the move, Kramer was not made available for comment. But in a statement, Hudson said, "Bill Kramer has been a critical part of the Academy Museum's success to date. We're thrilled for his new opportunity. Lucky for us, he spearheaded an incredibly successful capital campaign that has already raised $250 million in record time. And, he expertly guided us through our public approvals process. Bill's new home will be very fortunate to have him."

The museum project, which will dramatically overhaul and add to the May Co. building at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue next to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, is scheduled to open in the spring of 2018 under the leadership of museum director Kerry Brougher. As it moves forward, the Academy on Sept. 29 revealed two tax-exempt bond offerings being sold by Wells Fargo Bank. The first series, offered at a fixed rate, is looking to raise $221 million, and the second, at a variable rate, is for $128 million for a total of $349 million. The funds will be used for financing the 290,000-square-foot museum, and for the refinancing and reimbursement of previously paid costs.

The offering also revealed that the capital campaign’s goal, which was originally $300 million, has now been raised to $388 million, which includes $50 million for exhibition and programming. "In June of 2014, our board looked at an expansion of what’s happening inside the museum," Kramer said of the reason for raising the goal. "It has a lot less to do with bricks and mortar and more about creating really expansive and immersive exhibitions and programs within the museum, and then arriving at some contingencies just to buffer the budget and give us a little bit of flexibility. That additional amount is tied to that expansion.”

The offering also noted that as of August, the capital campaign had received $215 million in commitments and is looking to reach its full goal by December 2017. Since August, Kramer said, the Academy has received another $24 million in commitments as well as a further $11 million in verbal pledges for a total of $250 million.

Of those commitments, $62 million had been received by the Academy by August and converted into cash. "This early on, having that much cash on hand is fantastic," Kramer said. “The good news, since that time, we’ve received our first round of big pledge payments on some of the major naming gifts. Their giving was tied to the start of demolition, so now you’re going to see a big uptick in money coming in.”

The offering, which has received top credit ratings from Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s, is a common method used by cultural institutions to fund the construction of new projects while fund-raising is ongoing. The Academy last issued bonds in 2002 when it was building its Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study on Vine Street in Hollywood.

Kramer began his fundraising career in 1999 at the Sundance Institute. Prior to joining the museum project, he was chief advancement officer for the Southern California Institute of Architecture.