Frost Family Bails Out Cash-Strapped Science Museum, Cans Entire Board of Directors

Last month, county officials reacted with shock and horror at news that the Frost Museum of Science — a signature project at the heart of the new Museum Park downtown — had run out of cash before construction could be finished. Taxpayers were already on the hook for $160 million for the facility, which promised a giant shark tank and world-class planetarium.

Today, the museum's namesake funders — Phillip and Patricia Frost — announced that they're going to bail out the museum with a bridge loan to keep construction going. But they also exacted a price: They canned the entire 41-person board, including longtime chairs Dan and Trish Bell

"The Frosts explained that they recognize and are most appreciative of the outgoing Board’s passion, dedication and leadership to date, but desire a change in the Board of Trustees," the museum explains in a release.

The museum adds that "the outgoing Board was also responsible for securing $104 million in pledges ... but was not successful in either financing its existing pledges to cash or securing the additional pledges necessary to otherwise yield sufficient cash to meet its scheduled and ongoing construction costs."

The shakeup comes after weeks of embarrassing headlines for the project. County officials say they were caught totally off guard by the news that fundraising shortfalls and the failure to secure a bank loan meant the museum couldn't make a $5 million construction payment. 

"It's kind of a comedy of errors, but it's still a very important cause," Commissioner Xavier Suarez told New Times at the time. "This science museum cannot be allowed to fail."

County Mayor Carlos Gimenez has proposed a fix: Turning planned annual contributions into the museum into a one-time $45 million grant to finish construction. While that idea works its way through the county government, the Frosts are going to loan the project the cash to continue work. 

The museum's new board will have to scramble to fix its fundraising problems. For now, just the Frosts, Cesar L. Alvarez, the senior chairman of Greenberg Traurig, and Richard Pfenniger will run the board until new members come on board.
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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink