mike koozmin/the s.f. examinerSpokesman Sam Singer

Koret Foundation’s board of directors seeks to remove founder’s widow

The board of directors overseeing the Koret Foundation, a prominent San Francisco-based charity, is seeking to remove its founder's widow as a director after she filed a lawsuit this week demanding new leadership for the board.

The seven other board members filed a competing lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court to remove Susan Koret from the board Tuesday, the same day she sued to have the board's former president, Ted Taube, revoked as well.

“This was the final straw,” Nathan Ballard, a spokesman for the Koret Foundation, said of the board's legal action.

Koret, who was named a lifetime board chair by her late husband, Joseph Koret, claims in her lawsuit that under the direction of Taube, who relinquished his role as president last month but remains on the board, the foundation has allocated millions of dollars outside Joseph Koret's mission to support local community and Jewish causes.

More than half of the $64 million gifted to the foundation between 2010-12 went to Taube's “personal pet projects” rather than to help the less fortunate, the widow's lawsuit charges. The foundation has also reportedly donated about $9 million to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, Poland, under the direction of Taube, who was born in Poland, the complaint states.

“My late husband was an immigrant to the U.S. from Russia. He grew up very poor, but then became very successful,” Susan Koret said. “He wanted to use his fortune to help the poor, reduce poverty in the Bay Area and Israel. This is not happening. It is being misused by the Koret Foundation board and that is wrong.”

Merv Brown, who worked at Joseph Koret's company for more than 50 years and is the nephew of Joseph Koret and his first wife, Stephanie, said Wednesday that he supports Susan Koret's lawsuit and has doubted Taube's interests for years, as did Joseph Koret.

“Joe Koret knew [Taube] was a little bit off, but he was making money,” Brown said. “But he didn't know he was going to take over everything.”

Ballard, however, said giving money to the museum in Poland is an example of how Taube and the other board members support Jewish causes around the world, as stated by the Koret Foundation's mission.

“Joe Koret came from an immigrant family and cared deeply about Eastern European Jewry,” Ballard said. “The museum in Poland is right in line with the mission of the Koret Foundation, and anyone who says otherwise didn't really know Joe Koret.”

Additionally, Susan Koret voted with the board more than 95 percent of the time, including in favor of grants that she is now suing over, Ballard noted.

“She's not making any sense,” Ballard said. “She has become more and more confused over the years and this lawsuit is an example of her confusion because she's suing the board for decisions that she herself made as a member of the board. It's time for her to go.”

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