HFPA members agree to hand Golden Globes to Chelsea owner Todd Boehly

Members of the beleaguered Hollywood Foreign Press Association, who’ve been cut adrift from the entertainment industry amid allegations of racism and self-dealing, have agreed to sell their organisation – including its main asset, the Golden Globe Awards – to Eldridge Industries – a company owned by the Chelsea boss Todd Boehly, who’s been acting as the HFPA’s interim chief executive since last year.

The Golden Globes was once second only to the Oscars in importance during film awards season.

Despite a range of reforms announced by the organisation over the past year, America’s NBC network, which had televised the once prestigious Globes until last year, had given no indication that it was prepared to resume its partnership with the HFPA, which is still facing boycotts from the main film studios and publicists, meaning that the chances of a ceremony in 2023 are currently looking low in any event.

Boehly will be hoping that distancing the Globes from the individual members who’ve been mired in controversy since long before the most recent allegations, the reputation of the nearly 80 year old awards can be restored. Far from its glitzy reputation, the 79th Golden Globes were handed out in January at a private, untelevised dinner, with no nominees in attendance.

Under the proposal that’s been agreed, a new private company would be created that would acquire the rights to the Golden Globes, and additional voters would be added to increase the size and diversity of the group, which is currently made up of about 90 original members and 21 new members, recruited in October last year, after the LA Times revealed that while about a third of the Golden Globes voters came from ethnic minority groups, there were no black Africans or African Americans.

In addition to the new awards firm, the HFPA would continue its charitable and philanthropic programmes through a separate non-profit entity.

In a statement, the HFPA President Helen Hoehne said this was an historic moment for the HFPA and the Golden Globes. “We have taken a decisive step forward to transform ourselves and adapt to this increasingly competitive economic landscape for both award shows and the journalism marketplace,” she said.

A special committee was set up within the HFPA to consider the bid from Eldridge and a rival proposal from Pacific Coast Entertainment, led by Cheryl Boone Isaacs – a former head of the Academy that hands out the Oscars – and the businessman Yusef D Jackson. Earlier in the process, PCE raised questions about the fairness of the bidding contest, noting that since becoming the interim CEO of the HFPA, Todd Boehly had access to members and confidential material. Jackson had previously suggested Boehly could be self-dealing, since he was the CEO of the organisation that one of his own companies was seeking to purchase. In a letter to HFPA members, seen by The Wrap, Jackson asked whether “Todd Boehly will serve as interim CEO of HFPA, an independent bidder, or both during the selection process”?

Hoehne said that Boehly had had nothing to do with the HFPA’s review of the rival bids, the recommendation of his own bid or the approval process.

The statement did not give details of how the HFPA members would fit into the new organisation or how their role would differ from that of the new voters and there was no indication of the scale of the vote to accept the plan. But it’s known that both bidders had offered the members sums in the region of $75,000-$120,000 each for at least three years to hand over the rights to the Globes and essentially go from becoming independent entertainment journalists to becoming salaried employees of the new enterprise. With an uncertain future – if any at all – for the HFPA without some kind of takeover, it’s been reported that of those members who voted, supporters of the proposals outnumbered opponents by about 4 to 1. Until the diversity scandal emerged last year, HFPA members wielded disproportionate power in Hollywood as little-known journalists who could boost bestow the prestigious awards on the biggest names in the business; having tasted obscurity and humiliation, they have now been offered a lifeline by Boehly, but it’s not clear how long this will last.

Adding the Golden Globes to his portfolio would increase billionaire Todd Boehly’s earnings from the ceremony, since he already controls DCP, the production company that shares the rights with the HFPA.

As well as accusations of self-dealing, questions have been raised about other potential conflicts of interest, with Boehly being a billionaire who also owns the main Hollywood trade newspapers, Variety and Hollywood Reporter, Dick Clark Productions, which used to make the Golden Globes awards show and shared the royalty rights with the HFPA, and the production company MRC, whose show Ozark was nominated for Golden Globes on three occasions.

As a nonprofit organisation, the HFPA’s takeover cannot be completed until US government officials have approved the deal.

Since the allegations in the LA Times that brought the HFPA to its knees in January last year, the organisation has become increasingly riddled with infighting. One member, Husam Asi, is currently suing the organisation, alleging sexual harassment by two board members and discrimination in the way allegations against him have been handled, compared with comparable claims against other members. He has stated that “despite their blatant bias against me, the investigators [hired by the HFPA] couldn’t find evidence of sexual misconduct”, but the HFPA has not yet publicly declared the outcome of a grievance process against him.