After years of financial problems, the infamous Newseum in Washington, D.C., is contemplating a sale of its massive Pennsylvania Avenue building, despite paying its board members fat six-figure salaries.
Executives from the Newseum are meeting with a real estate firm Thursday to discuss selling the building or moving it to a smaller and more affordable location, according to The Washington Post.
Such financial difficulties have been known for some time. The CEO of the museum’s top donor, Freedom Forum, stepped down from his position in August 2017 after failing to clean up the museum’s finances after the nonprofit put in nearly $500 million since 1997.
With hundreds of millions pouring in, the Newseum seemed to exercise little fiscal restraint. A third of the museum’s expenses were spent on salaries, benefits and payroll taxes in 2015. Top executives like CEO Jeffrey Herbst took in $259,108 in 2015 for only five month’s work. His predecessor, James Duff, earned $1.2 million the year before — all while the organization sustained losses totaling in the millions from 2011 to 2015.
Now, on the cusp of its 10-year anniversary, the museum may soon shut down for good. Poor fundraising has led to Freedom Forum to carry a $300 million debt, raising questions about how much longer it can possibly prop up a museum that has been criticized by members of the press itself. Jack Shafer of Politico once wrote that the museum “deserves to die.”
Chief Operating Officer Scott Williams insisted in a WaPo interview that the museum isn’t going anywhere, but may change “in some capacity.”
“It’s a slow-motion disaster,” an individual with knowledge of the museum’s finances told WaPo.
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