As president of the Kennedy Center, Michael Kaiser has more than enough work to keep him busy. But when Prince Charles came calling, he couldn’t say no — and now Kaiser is the new chairman of the U.S. arm of the Prince of Wales Foundation.
He’s not leaving Washington or his $1 million-a-year job at the KenCen. In fact, the new gig doesn’t pay a dime.
“I’m the volunteer chairman,” Kaiser told us. His duties? “Run the board meetings, see to the overall strategy of the organization.”
And — let’s get real — bring in big bucks. The heir to the British throne approached him last spring because Kaiser is a money magnet: In just two years as the head of London’s Royal Opera House, he brought in $100 million in private donations. “He’s always appreciated my ability to raise funds,” said Kaiser. “And I think he trusts me.”
The two stayed in touch after Kaiser came to D.C. in 2001; they’re close enough that the prince popped up in a Kennedy Center tribute video earlier this year. Kaiser said he accepted the job because he shares several interests with the prince — and it’s part of a larger strategy to determine what he wants to do after his KenCen contract expires in 2014. Before taking the position, Kaiser discussed it with center chair David Rubenstein, who gave thumbs up.
Kaiser is taking on what looks like a major overhaul: He’s replacing African businessman Geoffrey Kent, who served as the foundation’s U.S. chair since it was founded 20 years ago. Another issue: Who, if anyone, will replace executive director Robert Higdon, who left the foundation this summer after 14 years running the day-to-day operations. Higdon’s resignation made headlines in the British tabloids, which questioned the reasons for his sudden departure and Charles’s close ties to American donors like Joe Allbritton. “Staffing is being discussed,” Kaiser said.
One thing is certain: The American side of the foundation raises “several” million per year, and Kaiser plans to up that number.