(via seaternity on Flickr)

Platinum Equity CEO Tom Gores has resigned from the board of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), according to an October 8 letter from Gores to the museum’s director, Michael Govan, and trustees. Activists have been targeting Gores since 2017, when his firm purchased Securus Technologies, a telecom company that manages phone systems at thousands of prisons, jails, and detention centers. Last month, a letter to Govan authored by Los Angeles-based artist and writer Jessica Simmons, and signed by over 100 artists including Andrea Fraser, Sam Durant, and EJ Hill, demanded Gores’s removal from the board, accusing Securus of price gouging. The letter stated that the company makes “more than $700 million per year charging egregious rates for phone calls from prisons, jails, and immigrant detention centers — funds that are primarily siphoned from impoverished families and Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities of color, further constricting the urgent resources of marginalized people.”

According to a Los Angeles Times story, the issue was discussed at a museum board meeting last week, “during which Gores defended the investment and told trustees about how his Platinum Equity firm was in the midst of reforming Securus,” the article states.

“I accept at face value your concern that this is all too much of a distraction from the institution’s core mission,” writes Gores in his letter. “My decision to step away from the board is based on relieving LACMA of any further distraction and ensuring that the transformation work at Securus, and in all of our businesses, continues to move forward with vigor and passion.”

“We’re very grateful to Tom, not only for his generosity and support over more than a decade, but also for this additional gesture of support for LACMA right now,” Govan said in a statement provided to Hyperallergic by a museum representative.

In his letter, Gores paints himself as a reformer, working to change the industry and lower phone costs for inmates. “We are change agents shouldering the hard work of reform in the corrections services industry,” he writes. “We’re fighting entrenched opposition from critics on one side who think we’re moving too far and too fast, and on the other side who think we’re not moving far enough or fast enough. Some of those critics would prefer we break the company rather than fix it or sell it rather than reform it. We choose instead to make a difference by doing the work.”

In an email to the Los Times, Bianca Tylek, the executive director of Worth Rises, a group dedicated to prison justice reform, writes that their goal is indeed for him to leave the industry. “The pressure won’t stop until he does what’s right: meets advocacy demands for reform — not his own — and gets out of this predatory business once and for all,” she told the Times.

Gores’s resignation follows protests over the financial ties of other museum board members to prisons and weapons companies. In 2019, Warren Kanders, CEO of Safariland — which manufactures tear gas that was used against migrants on the US-Mexico border — resigned from the board of the Whitney Museum. Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, which invests in weapons manufacturers and private prisons, has also been pressured to resign from the board of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. 

Matt Stromberg is a freelance visual arts writer based in Los Angeles. In addition to Hyperallergic, he has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, CARLA, Apollo, ARTNews, and other publications.