EXCLUSIVE Did you see Tina Fey crying on the Robin Hood Foundation special Monday night? She’d really be crying if she looked at their Form 990 tax filings. Not “every penny of the money we take in goes to charity,” I’m afraid.
For years, from at least 2006 to 2016, Robin Hood was paying a six figure salary to Mark Bezos, brother of Jeff, owner of Amazon and the Washington, and the Richest Man in America ($145 billion). Mark Bezos was listed as their communications director. His salary was around $140,000 in 2013 and 2014, and then jumped up to $240,000 for 2015 and 2016. It’s possible Mark Bezos earned around a million bucks in salary from the Robin Hood Foundation, money that might have gone to New Yorkers in need of food or shelter.
From his Linkedin page, Mark Bezos’s bio: “Mr. Bezos serves on the boards of multiple technology companies and as a director of the Bezos Family Foundation. Prior to co-founding HighPost Capital, Mr. Bezos served as a strategic advisor to several start-ups and tech-enabled multimedia companies. Previously he was head of communications for the Robin Hood Foundation, where he helped establish the non-profit organization as a role model for impact investing.”
Bezos had his own advertising firm that closed in 2006. He told a magazine: “I had to figure out somewhere to go and I got a phone call from a guy named David Saltzman who was executive director at Robin Hood, and I guess through friends of friends, he heard I was looking for what’s next. Robin Hood was looking for someone to help with communications and marketing, so that began a 10-year adventure.” (Bezos is also a volunteer fireman in Scarsdale, New York, where he lives in a sprawling $6 million estate.)
“The guy” Mark Bezos was referring to was David Saltzman, Executive Director of Robin Hood. It wasn’t a random call since Jeff Bezos has given plenty to the foundation and their mother, Jacklyn, has been on the board of directors.
Saltzman retired from Robin Hood at the end of 2017. His payout was $1.7 million, about triple the $600,000 or so annual salary he’d been receiving up til then. Robin Hood is nice work if you can get it. The most recent top executive listed in their filings is Reynold Levy, who was earning just under $1 million from 2015 to 2017. Total salaries for Robin Hood came to $18 million in 2017, down a bit from 2016, but up up up from 2015. Robin Hood has a huge staff– it takes a lot of people to do good– and they are paid very, very well.
Robin Hood is a largely secretive place with little public relations, which is why Mark Bezos’ listed job sounds so odd. Their only transparency is through their tax filing which shows a steep drop in revenue from 2016’s $170 million to 2017’s $120 million. At the same time, their grants to charitable organizations dropped from $181 million in 2016 to $115 million in 2017.
That makes Tina’s announcement on Monday’s show that they’d pulled in $115 million in one hour more than a little suspect– although Tina wouldn’t have known any of this. Who could blame her for crying? There was no delineation during that crazy hour– with very good musical performances– between corporate donations and money that came in from the public. The PR spin was magnificent — even if Mark Bezos is no longer doing the communications job.