While he lived, one-time Union-Tribune owner David Copley wasn’t shy about dipping into the funds of the nonprofit foundation created by his adopted father Jim Copley, distributing big money to an array of his favorite causes, including a $5 million multi-year pledge to the Sharp Healthcare Foundation, where he had gotten a new heart in 2005. In 2008, an $8 million pledge went to a newly undertaken movie-costume program at UCLA, now known as the David C. Copley Center for the Study of Costume Design.
A fan of conceptual artist Christo, famous for wrapping natural scenery with plastic, Copley also used much of the foundation’s money to help support La Jolla’s Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. He died of a heart attack after crashing his flashy Aston Martin in downtown La Jolla on his way home from a museum board meeting in November 2012. The foundation that was the font of Copley’s generosity survived and was renamed. It is now run by a board of directors consisting of past executives of the Copley Press, the former holding company of the Union-Tribune, and other newspaper properties shed by Copley and his late mother Helen as the market for print slowly collapsed.
The fund’s most recent financial disclosure, covering 2014, shows that new management has been more tight-fisted with its charity than its late president. At Copley’s death, the nonprofit’s net worth had hovered around $18 million. Liquidation of his assets in 2013 and 2014 raised that number to about $71.2 million, an August 2015 disclosure filing shows. Total contributions and grants were $3.35 million. The bulk of the cash, $2.2 million, went to the Copley Family YMCA construction fund to fulfill a prior pledge. $500,000 was paid to Sharp to redeem the earlier David Copley pledge. Other recipients included the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art’s Christo show, which got $28,500, and the Just a Dog Pit Bull Rescue, receiving $1000.
On the other hand, the former Copley executives who gave away the money were paid big salaries and benefits for less than average work weeks. Dean P. Dwyer, once a Copley vice president who was a co-executive of the David Copley estate, received a total of $258,589 in compensation and benefits for working an average of just 24 hours each week as president, according to the disclosure. Kimberly Koch, listed as the foundation’s chief operating officer, got total compensation of $98,904 for putting in 35 hours per week.
Two trustees, said to devote only three hours a week to foundation business, were paid $50,000. They were Chuck Patrick, a former Copley chief operating officer, and ex-vice president Robert Crouch. Another trustee, lawyer Eric Freeberg, got the same for six hours a week.