Wednesday, December 6

When big corporate donors get bought out

An announcement was made earlier this week that Mellon Financial Corp. was changing its name and its headquarters address after being acquired by the Bank of New York.

As if the people of Pittsburgh haven't suffered enough this fall because of the Steelers disappointing football season... now they face the prospect of losing one of the cities biggest philanthropic institutions.

Those concerns, in large part, help explain why Mellon Chief Executive Officer Robert P. Kelly went out of his way to pledge that the merger would benefit Pittsburgh, both in jobs and in the combined company's involvement in to the region.
Mellon announced the creation of a new $80 million Mellon Financial Foundation that will give out twice as much money to southwestern Pennsylvania as the previous foundation did -- $4 million a year, double the previous $2 million. It also pledged that the $1 million that it currently spends per year on area sponsorships and nonprofits will not change.
Despite these promises, Pittsburghers are wary.
"Every bank says that because it's the right thing to say," Ken Thomas, a Miami-based banking expert, said of Mellon's stated commitment to local philanthropy. "But if A buys B, A calls the shots. Their primary goal is to serve the shareholders of the Bank of New York, period, and not in other markets."

Mr. Thomas said that institutions such as the Orange Bowl parade and the University of Miami noticed drop-offs in financial support after SouthEast Bank was acquired first by First Union, and then by Wachovia.

"It's not just the philanthropy," he said. "When you lose a lot of chief executive officers and board members, their role in the community drops some. They lose some of their stature."
It's not the first time Pittsburgh has dealt with the lose of a Fortune 500 company. While it remains to be seen if Mellon is serious or if it is simply trying to avoid telling the donor that the party is over... but I've already heard from a couple very nervous grant recipients in the Steel City.

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