In a recent post, "Ultimate Injustice: More Shenanigans from Charles Wang," I wrote about a proposed merger of two charities-Smile Train and Operation Smile-that had been orchestrated by Wang, and that would have left him in control of $100 million in donated funds. In case you haven't heard, the huge public outcry and pressure from Smile Train supporters compelled the Smile Train board to call off the merger.
As I reported in that post, if the deal had been consummated, money donated to help kids in developing countries who are born with cleft lips and palates would have been controlled by a man whose business empire is crumbling, and whose record of being ethically challenged is legendary. The New York Times article I cited in the post explained:
The new entity will not, however, have the combined assets of the two organizations. Only roughly one-third of Smile Train's assets will go into the new charity, according to the merger agreement.
The rest, estimated by Smile Train board members to most likely exceed $100 million when the deal is complete, will go into a separate "legacy fund." Mr. Wang, who will be chairman emeritus, will have the right to appoint - and remove - four of the fund's five board members; they will decide how to disburse and invest the money.
In an open letter to Smile Train supporters on Monday, Wang blamed his predicament on a "self-serving campaign to spread untruths." Here's an excerpt:
Sadly, some former Smile Train management and others have taken a very aggressive and damaging approach to undermine the proposed transaction and our two organizations. At a time when the public discussion should have been about how our two organizations can change the lives of more children, there has been instead a self-serving campaign to spread untruths about each organization, the proposed merger and those of us who supported it.
It's a shame because both organizations do such great work. Over the last three weeks, Smile Train and Operation Smile have had to spend too much time and attention dealing with false innuendo, accusations and allegations. This has taken us away from what is most important: helping children with cleft lips and palates.
Wang didn't mention his "legacy fund" in the letter, nor did he acknowledge the grassroots petition that-as of this writing-2,166 Smile Train supporters signed, calling on the New York attorney general to block the merger. The goal had been to get 1,000 signatures.
I have absolutely no way of knowing, but I wouldn't be surprised if the attorney general picked up the phone and told Wang to call it off so he wouldn't have to. That's pure speculation. But I've been covering Wang for about 20 years, and let's just say that voluntarily backing away from a plan that gives him what he wants isn't his style.
Regardless, the Smile Train faithful have cause to celebrate. Their perseverance for the sake of the kids is an uplifting reminder that justice is worth the fight.