Designer Kenneth Cole told attendees at last night’s annual amfAR gala in New York kicking off Fashion Week that he was resigning as chairman of the AIDS organization, three months after word surfaced of a tacit deal with Harvey Weinstein.
“Today, my 14-year term as chairman concludes,” Cole told the audience at Cipriani Wall Street, according to multiple media reports. “It has been a true privilege to have worked alongside so many talented and dedicated and committed individuals.” He went on to add, “Through my ongoing work as a UNAIDS Ambassador and with the End AIDS Coalition, I remain personally committed to aligning resources and galvanizing global action and working with amfAR to make AIDS history.”
Last November, AIDS activists had urged Cole to step down after word surfaced of the deal with Weinstein.
An open letter asking him to quit was signed by more than 60 people, including Greg Louganis, Larry Kramer and Peter Staley, according to NBC News. The letter detailed an arrangement between Cole and Weinstein wherein they would split proceeds from the glitzy Cannes/amfAR charity auction between amfAR and American Repertory Theater.
The motivation for the deal, which predated Weinstein’s sexual harassment scandal, was ART’s hosting of a trial production of the Weinstein-produced musical Finding Neverland. Weinstein owed $600,000 to ART for Finding Neverland before it hit Broadway, so a deal was put together involving reimbursements, third parties and non-disclosure agreements. After the auction, Cole planned to wire $600,000, without board approval, to ART at the request of Weinstein’s office.
In a statement to NBC News at the time, Cole said that the letter “is based on a false narrative and distortion of facts.”
Having spent 30 years on the amfAR board and steering it for 14 years as chairman, raising hundreds of millions of dollars in the process, he declared, “I have no intention of abandoning that mission because of a transaction that was determined to be legal and ethical and was engaged in because it served amfAR’s mission.”
Cole asserted in the statement that Weinstein “has never been a friend of mine.” They collaborated on the arrangement “only because it was good for amfAR and I did not know about his despicable behavior until I read about it in the New York Times. Any suggestion that I somehow made this deal as a favor to Weinstein is ridiculous and patently false.”
Last night’s amfAR gala raised $1.6 million.