Brangelina's Charity: Bravo | Paul Simon's Son, Wife Make Music | Bronfman's Folly: Warner Stock Collapses | 'Today' Show: Got Dough?; Jermaine's Dead Body | Minghella Memories
Brangelina's Charity: Bravo
It’s all good news for fans of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. They gave away a lot of money in 2006, it’s all documented, and none of it went to any cult religions or crazy organizations.
According to the first federal filing for the Jolie Pitt Foundation, the couple put over $8 million into their tax-free instrument. Pitt put in $4,402,317. Jolie donated $4,123,613.
So, you see, all that talk about their making charitable donations? It was true, after all. What a relief. For once, there’s a happy ending.
Their first years’ donations totaled a whopping 2,367,935. The biggest amounts were $1 million apiece to Doctors Without Borders (International Division) and to Global AIDS Alliance.
The smaller grants went to Namibia Red Cross Action Program ($137,935), which is nice, since the couple caused chaos there when camped out during the birth of baby Shiloh; $100,000 to the Daniel Pearl Foundation (the couple made the movie "A Mighty Heart" about Pearl — this was a sop to his widow, Marianne, whom Jolie played); another $100,000 to Global Green USA and to the Epidermolysis Bulloma Medical Research Foundation; $5,000 each to two orphanages visited by Jolie; and $20,000 to an art park in Los Angeles.
The best thing about this first year's filing is that the foundation’s expenses were a mere $27,000. It’s likely that next year, when the paperwork is done, there will be more staff expenses. Still, it’s an impressive start.
Meanwhile, Pitt has started the Make It Right Foundation, which is going to help build sustainable housing in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward.
All this altruism, combined with Pitt’s contributions to the Not On Our Watch fund to help Darfur, makes you want to go out and support the couple’s movies. At least the money is going to good places.
On the other hand, I was a little surprised to find that savedarfur.org raised $15.5 million last year, spent $6 million on television commercials to raise awareness about the plight of the Darfur refugees, paid $1 million to consultants and gave only $158,000 to relief organizations.
And just a reminder: Madonna’s Raising Malawi, the Kabbalah-fronted charity, is still not registered anywhere some six weeks after the big Gucci fundraiser.
Paul Simon's Son, Wife Make Music
OK: I don’t know about you, but I hadn’t heard a word about a new album from the reclusive Edie Brickell, aka Mrs. Paul Simon.
In Nashville the other day, I spotted a blurb in a music mag about "The Heavy Circles," an album from 42-year-old Brickell and her 36-year-old stepson, Harper Simon.
Yes, it’s a little strange, and Casey Kasem would have a field day with it if the pair had a hit. Talk about a trivia question! (Maybe this is what Heather Mills really wanted, an album featuring her and James McCartney, Paul’s son!)
Not only that: A couple of the tracks on "The Heavy Circles" feature Sean Lennon on bass. Martha Wainwright also makes an appearance.
Inside the little booklet, Harper — who doesn’t sing, but co-wrote the songs and plays on them — thanks Simon’s second wife, Carrie Fisher, her daughter Billie and Fisher’s ex-husband, Bryan Lourd, not to mention his own parents, Simon and Peggy Harper, his three small stepsiblings and uncle Eddie, Paul’s brother.
The only person he left out is Art Garfunkel!
So forget that Brickell is not very prolific and that she may be signed to Universal Music Group. "The Heavy Circles" — on the vanity label Dynamite Child — turns out to be not the disaster I expected (for the insane price of $17.98 retail at FYE, mind you). It’s terrific, full of catchy songs, interesting and melodic production and Brickell’s commercial, engaging vocals. Check it out at TheHeavyCircles.com, MySpace and iTunes.
As a complete non sequitur, P.S.: Wynonna Judd tells me she’s recorded Maria Muldaur’s "I’m a Woman" for a new album. Maria’s daughter, Jenni Muldaur, is a talented singer-songwriter who used to be Harper Simon’s girlfriend. Jenni's MySpace page features three of her own songs, and they’re all very good. There seems to be a whole second generation of music stars who’re non-active in the business.
Bronfman's Folly: Warner Stock Collapses
It’s been quite a week at Warner M. Group, the soon-to-be former home of Madonna, the totally former home of the Eagles and a record label without any hits.
WMG stock price finished Thursday at $4.95. This was possibly a reaction to the ridiculous new zillion-dollar contracts given to Edgar Bronfman Jr. and Lyor Cohen as rewards for destroying a once-proud company.
My favorite reports about WMG from Wall Street analysts who don’t understand the record business always cite the quote-unquote decline of the sales of CDs. This is as if people suddenly didn’t like music anymore.
The fact is, in the five years since Bronfman bought WMG from Time Warner, Cohen and his crack staff have developed no new artists, released nothing new of any merit and pretty much turned their back on music. They’ve depended on a handful of acts that already were signed to the company: Linkin Park, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Josh Groban.
On Wednesday, Richard Greenfield of Pali Capital Research — the only analyst who does understand this travesty — issued an interesting report.
Greenfield wrote that while WMG’s stock price had declined 70 percent over the last year, the company’s board of directors "has just approved a dramatic increase in the compensation paid to its #2 executive, Lyor Cohen, Chairman and CEO, Recorded Music — North America. It should come as no surprise that Edgar Bronfman Jr.'s contract was renewed earlier in the week, given that he was part of the group that originally funded the Warner Music leveraged buyout.
"However, it was surprising that the compensation committee did not lower target total compensation, given the significant weakening in the company's/industry's prospects since Mr. Bronfman's original compensation package was set in 2004 (Bronfman's base salary remains at $1 million, with a bonus of up to $6 million, and he is entitled to $4 million if terminated)."
Greenfield continued: "We are, however, surprised to see Mr. Cohen's contract renewed, particularly after the mistakes made by his division over the past year (including the $30 million Bulldog fiasco and the unknown cost it will take to keep Roadrunner Records' top act, Nickelback; WMG acquired the label in early 2007)."
Greenfield points out that Cohen’s new contract was doubled, from a $1.5 million base salary to $3 million. That’s $3 million for an executive whose entire run at the company has been a miserable failure.
And that’s nothing: If Cohen is terminated, he gets $8.5 million!
Greenfield also notes that the Bronfman and Cohen packages are approved by the board of directors, which is composed of six men. Five of them work for the three private equity companies that hold 63 percent of WMG in their sweaty palms.
"We believe the lack of independence on the compensation committee is a clear negative for public shareholders. … We simply view this as poor governance. Investors in WMG should voice their displeasure directly to the Board of Directors." Amen!
'Today' Show: Got Dough?; Jermaine's Dead Body
Wednesday morning, 9:15 a.m. Central Time: To underscore a fashion sequence, the "Today" show played the Beatles’ "Here Comes the Sun" and Cyndi Lauper’s "True Colors" in their entirety. That, dear friends, is one pricey segment. Wait till BMI sends out their bill! ...
Jermaine Jackson told a video paparazzi that Neverland would be sold "over my dead body." I hope he’s got a good doctor. He also said the whole May 14 auction was a "myth" and that the property would never leave "the family." Jermaine, Neverland belongs to Michael, not to you. And the "myth" is real on May 14 unless someone comes up with $24.5 million …
Fans of the late Oscar-winning director Anthony Minghella, who died suddenly this week at age 54, can post their thoughts and memories of him at this Web site. If you'd like to send a snail-mail reminiscence, the address is: Old Chapel Studios, 19 Fleet Road, London NW3 2QR.
I'm told a book may be made out of all the entries...