It was agreed that Bill be ‘retired’, that a new Chief Executive be appointed and that all Pavarotti projects be placed under the control of non-UK War Child offices which were War Child Italy, Netherlands and Canada.
Bill and the London office ignored all this. The Trustees were already fed up with Bill’s actions and behaviour, frustrated that he would not even attend their meetings. Most of them resigned. The old Trustees were replaced with Kate Buckley and Laura Johnson-Graham.
May 9th, 1999 – A month later, Brian Eno wrote to Tim Spencer to let him know that the Patrons had been informed of the resignations of ‘nearly the entire Board’ and laid the blame on Tim’s failure ‘to appreciate the severity of the current situation and to take the necessary actions agreed upon between the Board and the Patrons at our joint meeting of 9th April.’1
Bill now began to peddle the view that the charity could dispense with its Patrons. He told The Sunday Times, ‘I would like to phase celebrities out of War Child completely and let the work the charity does speak for itself. We suddenly became fashionable with all sorts of undesirables, more interested in promoting their flagging careers than doing anything worthwhile.’2
Pavarotti had handed over millions to War Child. Brian not only helped plan the Centre, but visited Mostar on numerous occasions to give workshops. Tom Stoppard came to the opening and had helped publicise our diabetic aid project. When Bill and I were broke, he’d sent us both money. Brian and his wife, Anthea, had been responsible for three fundraising events in London which had raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for the charity.
I was exhausted and depressed. I was proud of our achievements and felt part of a great team in Mostar, but the Centre was now running on empty. I was having to sack staff and cut wages. I was now at the lowest point in my life. Anne was far away and my only support was the young people who were shaping the Centre and its future. I had a constant stream of visitors from the London office who seemed intent on trying to get me to resign. ‘You need a rest, David’, ‘You are ill’, ‘You drink too much’. One War Child visitor took advantage of my absence in Sarajevo and went through my office files to try and ‘dig the dirt’ on me.
I did my best to keep the Centre going and started chasing funding possibilities. I even went to Strasbourg to visit the European Development Fund. On this visit I passed through London for a few days and had to work from home because I had been frozen out of the War Child office. These were pre- email days and I had no fax. I had to pretend that I was still in Mostar and gave out my contact details there. I could hardly tell the EU that I was working from home as an ‘exile’ from my own NGO. Under such difficult circumstances, and working from my attic bedroom, I am proud to say that I managed to secure a grant for the PMC.
October 10th, 1999 – I resigned as Director and returned to London. I’d been told that moves were under way to remove me altogether from the charity. My administrator, Amela Saric, was appointed in my place and one of her first acts was to write to the charity’s Trustees to defend me. In her letter she offered to come to London and speak to them.3 She was wasting her time.
October 22nd, 1999 – The only communication that followed was not a reply to Amela, but a letter to me from Kate Buckley, the new Chair of Trustees and a partner at the large city lawyers, Allen and Overy. She invited me to attend a Trustee Meeting on November 1st to ‘explore your future role within the charity’.
November 1st, 1999 – At that meeting, exploration was not on the agenda. Kate announced that, in her view, I should be sacked. Meanwhile, the Trustees had advertised and recruited a new CEO, Raymond Chevalier. Bill had resigned as War Child Director, but still remained working for the charity. I had a meeting with Raymond and, afterwards, wrote him a letter expressing my frustrations.4 I needn’t have bothered since Raymond was in the post for less than two months. He wrote to the Trustees from Thailand to inform them he’d resigned.
January 30th, 2000 – A Sunday meeting with Brian and he showed me the draft of a letter he was writing which he wanted the other Patrons to sign. In it, he expressed frustration that no fundamental changes had taken place, that funding for the PMC was in danger, and that there was ‘resistance within War Child to support the Pavarotti projects and to produce answers to serious financial questions’.5
One of these questions related to the £140,000 royalties from the song ‘Miss Sarajevo’. On behalf of the artists, U2’s record company had asked for this to be sent directly to the PMC.6 The Centre never received this money.
February 10th, 2000 – Kate Buckley called a Trustee meeting, and they were presented with Brian’s letter, now co-signed by Luciano Pavarotti, Sir Tom Stoppard, David Bowie, Juliet Stevenson and Brent Hansen. There were four trustees present: Kate, Laura Johnson-Graham, John Gaydon and Anthea Eno. John and Anthea argued for respecting the wishes of the Patrons.7
As Chair, Kate Buckley said that I should be sacked, and that they had no other choice than 1) to organise a split in defence of the London office or 2) to close the charity down altogether. Three days later, Anthea resigned.8
February 23rd, 2000 – the Trustees met again and John Gaydon argued for the closure of the London office since the Trustees were unwilling to consider the terms as set out in the Patrons’ letter to them.
Once again, Kate argued for my sacking. At this point, John resigned. Kate introduced a new Trustee, Peter Collins, and these three, Kate, Laura and Peter went on to agree the termination of my contract.
Brian Eno, Luciano Pavarotti, Tom Stoppard, Juliet Stevenson, David Bowie and Brent Hansen were informed that their letter had been ignored and that I had been sacked. Their resignations followed. A few days later I received a letter from Juliet Stevenson:
‘Well, what a terrible story this is, really. An eye-opener for me. I feel for you so much – thinking back to the early days of the charity and all that you placed at its service, and your passion and drive ... The work stands, and that is the important thing ... I do feel, incidentally, that this story should be revealed at some point, though I am aware of the potential hazards ... Best wishes, Juliet.’
I would be interested to know whether in legal/ethical terms a new Trustee, knowing nothing of the history of the charity and never having met me, was justified in voting for my redundancy. It seems to me to go against the laws of natural justice. Judges and juries without sight of, or sound from, the accused.
When I broached this in a phone call with Kate, she said that Peter Collins had abstained. I pointed out that his presence in the room allowed the meeting to be quorate and, therefore, his abstention was equivalent to a positive vote for my sacking.
February 29th, 2000 – I received my formal redundancy letter.9 Kate apologised for taking so much time to write to me, but said she had wanted to hear whether Raymond thought there was a role for me in War Child. Her opinion that I should be made redundant was strengthened, she argued curiously, by Anthea’s resignation as a Trustee and the reduced role of the Patrons. In addition, it was ‘clear’ that I had a strained relationship with the War Child office and that I should have sought ‘authority’ for taking the trip to meet with Pavarotti in New York.10
I was frustrated and angry. I had been sacked and my concerns had been ignored. I had had to leave the PMC, which was now in crisis. I had been told that I had no role in War Child by people who knew nothing about me or what I had achieved.
To add insult to injury, I had just found out that Bill and I had been given the ‘Men of the Year Award’ by the World Awards organisation in Vienna.11 The first I knew of it was when a friend sent me a photo of a smiling Bill accepting the award in Vienna’s Yard Castle from the President of World Awards, Mikhail Gorbachev.
I rang them and asked why I’d not been invited to Vienna with Bill. They told me that the War Child office had said I was ‘unavailable’.
Dorothy Byrne of Channel 4 TV introduced me to David Hencke at the Guardian. He, together with Channel 4 News, set about a joint investigation into War Child.
January 10th, 2001 – After months of work, the Guardian’s front-page article appeared under the title, ‘Stars Quit Charity in Corruption Scandal’. The opening words, ‘Luciano Pavarotti has walked out of the high-profile overseas aid charity, War Child UK, with five other celebrity patrons after discovering that its co-founder had taken a bribe from contractors building a prestigious music centre named after him in Bosnia.’12
This was accompanied by an editorial which was critical of the Charity Commission’s role.13 That night, as the lead story on Channel 4 news, Jon Snow interviewed the new Chair of Trustees, Rosie Boycott. She broke down in tears when asked for her opinion about the problems at War Child.
She only had herself to blame. One of the Trustees who had resigned was Berry Ritchie, ex-editor of the ‘Prufrock’ column in the Sunday Times. He had phoned Rosie when he heard that she had agreed to become a Trustee and would be the new Chair. She had been dismissive of his warnings that she was about to land herself in a bed of thorns.
I am often asked whether the War Child saga has left its scars. Of course it has, but I know there is a law applying to whistleblowers that requires a formula. It goes like this. The whistleblower discovers wrongdoing in an organisation. He/she is faced with ostracism, claims that they are ill and need to rest. If that tactic isn’t successful, they are informed they should retire and when that is not possible, sacked. The wrongdoers will then hide behind conventions and legalities to prevent information leaks. Finally, the whistleblower will achieve minor reforms, the wrongdoers will be exposed, but it will be too late. The wrong has been done, the wronged have been sacked, and the wrongdoers have quietly manoeuvred themselves back into positions of influence.
I only managed to get exposure because I had powerful people behind me, the front page of a national newspaper and the lead story on Channel 4 News.
Looking back, without Bill my life would have been different and not necessarily better. I could not have made the BBC Arena film and would never have started War Child. He was responsible for giving me the confidence to continue with the charity when it all seemed hopeless. I was grateful to him for making numerous journeys to Sarajevo and Mostar. He was a braver man than me.
I still remain puzzled as to what drove him. Was it altruism derailed by a moment’s lapse? I know that he wrestled with his conscience. Just before I left for Mostar in 1997, we went for a drink. With tears in his eyes, he told me he was proud of me. I never asked him why. It was a curious moment and out of character. What roles did others play in influencing his decisions? On this I have only conjecture, rumour and hearsay.
I recently watched a documentary on the relationship between German film director Werner Herzog and the actor Klaus Kinski. Kinski was subject to violent mood swings which came close at times to murderous intent. At the other extreme, he was affable, humorous, generous, even loveable.
When Herzog was making Aguirre, Wrath of God in the Peruvian jungle, Kinski exploded and threatened to walk off the set. Herzog drew a gun, telling him that it contained nine bullets. Eight for Kinski and the last one for himself. The actor stayed.
Bill was my Kinski. It used to amuse me how often he used the first person when talking with people about the setting up of War Child, even when I was present.14 As recently as a 2010 interview with Ed Vulliamy in the Observer, Bill said of the founding of War Child, ‘I wanted to come up with something that didn’t sound like your established charity.’15
Over the years, I got to feel like Trotsky, airbrushed out of the story.
As with most of us, Bill had good and bad in him in equal measure. It’s a pity that he has to take the brunt of my criticisms because there were others close to him who did not have that equal measure. I have a self-imposed D-Notice which prevents me from saying more about them.
1 Brian Eno’s letter to the Trustees: ‘Dear Mr Spencer, On Friday, 7 May 1999, the Patrons of War Child were informed of the resignation of nearly the entire Board of Trustees of War Child UK. At the Trustee meeting of 5 May, Trustee Ed Morris resigned, followed by Keith Turner. We understand that Andy MacDonald also wishes to resign, but is barred legally from doing so as no trustee board can exist with only one member. These resignations effectively leave War Child UK without a functioning Board of Trustees. We believe that this incredible and utterly avoidable calamity is the direct result of your failure, as Chairman of the Board of Trustees, to appreciate the severity of the current situation and to take the necessary actions agreed upon between the Board and the Patrons at our joint meeting of 9 April. You had been informed at some time before that meeting of Nicoletta Mantovani’s letter of 7 March to Bill Leeson requesting an explanation of two extremely serious issues involving War Child UK’s management: 1) Generally, the 1996 incident concerning the construction of the Pavarotti Music Centre, in which Bill Leeson and Mike Terry allegedly were involved in financial irregularities with the Bosnian firm Hydrogradjna; and, specifically, 2) An accounting of the $500,000 disbursed to War Child UK for the Pavarotti & Friends Liberian Children’s Village, construction of which has yet to begin. At the joint 9 April meeting the Trustees and Patrons present agreed on the following measures: the immediate dissolution of War Child UK’s Management Committee; the retirement of Bill Leeson; the appointment of a new War Child UK Chief Executive; the immediate handover of the Pavarotti- funded projects to Nicoletta Mantovani, with administrative control thereof assigned to War Child Netherlands (the Pavarotti Music Centre); War Child Italy (the Pavarotti & Friends Liberian Children’s Village); and War Child USA (the Pavarotti and Friends Guatemala project). Despite this joint agreement, the only change undertaken thus far is the unexplained firing of John Carmichael, who it was agreed at the 9 April meeting would assist War Child Italy in its implementation of the Liberia project. As far as we know, no other action has been taken. As a direct result of your inaction, War Child UK is left without a functioning Board of Trustees. The faith of the Patrons in War Child UK has been finally exhausted. Because we have always taken our positions as Patrons of War Child seriously, we feel now obliged to fulfil our responsibilities by ensuring the proper resolution of the present crisis. Due to your apparent lack of a similar sense of responsibility, coupled with the disintegration of the Trustee Board, we support the reporting of the situation as it now exists to the Charity Commission on Tuesday, 11 May. This will raise the question why you, as Chair, failed to resolve the situation, and the reason for the resignations of your fellow Trustees. We would like to be able to report to the Commission that some progress, however minor or belated, has been made toward remedying War Child UK’s untenable position. While time is quite short, we recommend that the following actions be taken by the remaining Board of you and Andy MacDonald ... so that they can be notified to the Commission at the meeting of 11 May: 1) The appointment of three neutral Trustees, recommended by the Patrons, with no affiliation whatsoever to the War Child UK Management Committee, so that their impartiality vis-a-vis the management of War Child UK is guaranteed; 2) Written confirmation that the course of action decided upon at the joint Patron/Trustee meeting of 9 April has been implemented, or, at the least, initiated; on completion of 1 and 2, the resignation of yourself as Chair and Trustee. We believe that the carrying out of the above would enable the Patrons to indicate to the Commission on Tuesday that some progress has been made toward resolving War Child UK’s internal crisis, progress mitigating against the need for the Commission to intervene as it determines legally necessary. Nothing short of these three steps will begin to restore the faith of the Patrons in War Child UK, and prevent us from taking whatever steps are necessary to protect our good names. We anticipate your immediate response. Brian Eno on behalf of (most of) the Patrons.’
2 Bill Leeson, quoted in The Sunday Times, December 10th, 2000: ‘Bill Leeson, co-founder of the charity War Child which was set up in 1993 to help victims of the war in Bosnia, is trying to cut celebrities out of the loop. “I would like to phase celebrities out of War Child completely and let the work the charity does speak for itself,” he says. Leeson, more than anyone, knows the benefits that celebrity endorsement can bring: when he first wanted to raise money, “the situation was an emergency and I used celebrities mercilessly”. The result was a compilation CD, Help, which climbed high in the charts thanks to contributions from Blur, Oasis and the Manic Street Preachers. But then Leeson found the charity was becoming more famous for its celebrity endorsers than its work and he had to reassess things. “We suddenly became fashionable and all sorts of undesirables, more interested in promoting their flagging careers than doing anything worthwhile, tried and failed to jump on the bandwagon.”’
3 Letter from Amela Saric , Director of the PMC to War Child Trustees, October 9th, 1999. ‘I am writing to you for the first time as PMC Director, but I find it really necessary. Last few weeks I was in contact with David Wilson hoping that he will be one of the crucial internationals willing to help Pavarotti Centre in the future. But from that contact I realised that he is too depressed by problems with War Child and with the fact that he has to work from home and not to be welcome in the organisation he founded. The fact that he may be made redundant would be wrong and disaster for the PMC. As you all know, he was the PMC Director for the first two years and most of the successes and good reputation of PMC we have to thank him for. He found enough strength and courage to stay with Bosnians, leave very quiet and secure position in War Child and fight for the Centre in the middle of a divided city. Pavarotti Centre became the oasis of peace, place for the children and young people of Bosnia mostly thanks to his vision and hard work. The only independent centre from all kinds of politic games. He was brave enough to fight against some local politicians who wanted to destroy us, to destroy the idea that the Centre is for all people in Bosnia without regard to their names, nationality or confession. He was brave enough to give a chance to young people to have a job, responsibility and hope to find a way to become normal human beings. And this is not just my or PMC staff opinion. He has respect of local people and politicians, important people in OHR, UN, OSCE, BiH politicians. His speeches are still remembered in Mostar and BiH and he was given a lot of media attention and strongly respected in my country. Even Croatian press was nice about him. Most of the international journalists that visited us in the last few weeks asked me what is happening with him, is he still in War Child, what is his future role? He is the best ambassador for us and without him the PMC future is in doubt and we will lose our best supporter and friend. And at the end he was the only member of War Child London who cared about this project. I still believe that through good and continued work of PMC as one of the biggest projects of War Child, War Child can benefit. We are the best example of War Child success for possible donors of future War Child projects. I write this letter as Director of PMC supported by people working here. We are very willing that one of us come to London and speaks with you directly if you find it necessary.’
4 Letter to Raymond Chevalier, December 19th, 1999: ‘I don’t know how bad the financial side is at War Child, but I am pretty certain that they have been dipping into PMC monies (the underspend and the “Miss Sarajevo” income). The PMC will grind to a halt in February without at least the underspend being sent down ... I realise how delicate the situation is for you, but the fact is that, as a founder of War Child, I am unable to work from the London office because of the susceptibilities of others who should be the ones in exile and not me. It is deeply frustrating and depressing and prevents me from getting on with my work. People are beginning to ask me why, when I am in London, I communicate all the time from a home address. I should be writing on War Child letterheads to MEPs and the Directorate General X at the EU to get monies to the PMC which are owed. I should be setting up meetings at DFID for future funding, reapplying to the UK Lottery and so on. I cannot do this and it is an absurd situation.’
5 Brian Eno’s draft letter, January 30th, 2000: ‘Dear Trustees of War Child UK, As you know, for the past year we, as the patrons of War Child, have been waiting to hear that the troubles that blighted the charity were behind us. We made some suggestions concerning the London office and we were glad to hear that a new CEO had been found. We have now been informed that Raymond Chevalier, hired as Chief Executive by the Trustees in November to, we presume, implement reforms and seek answers, has suddenly resigned. We have now also heard that funding for the Pavarotti Music Centre in Mostar is uncertain, and that a crisis at the PMC looms. It appears that there is a resistance within War Child UK to support the Pavarotti projects and to produce answers to serious financial questions. As our professional reputations are linked to War Child, and because we still believe in the vision of War Child as it once was and can be again, we believe it imperative that the following be implemented immediately: We propose the immediate appointment of an interim Chief Executive Officer, to work with the remaining co-founder of War Child, David Wilson, toward the restructuring of War Child UK. Because the current state of crisis does not provide adequate time to go through the process of applications and headhunting, we propose the appointment of a previous candidate for the CEO position, as interim CEO. This appointment should be for six months, reviewable by the Trustees at the end of that period in consultation with the Patrons. During that time, the Trustees may wish to conduct another application process, which may include consideration of the interim appointee. We urge that the Trustees provide the interim appointee with a narrow and focused remit: namely, to retain a completely independent professional auditor, whose role it will be (with facilitation from David Wilson) to examine every aspect of War Child UK’s finances and make a complete report to the Trustees and Patrons as soon as possible. During this examination, we believe the interim appointee should carefully administer and control incoming and outgoing funds, with weekly reports to the Trustees on all financial and programme activities. All existing programmes and employees should be closely scrutinised for financial – and results – effectiveness, and no additional initiatives or appointments should be made during this interim period without the full agreement of the Trustees, in consultation with the Patrons. During this time, David Wilson should work with the interim appointee to resolve the funding and morale crisis at the PMC. This person should also work with the Patrons, Trustees, and other relevant War Child offices to ameliorate this crisis and work toward short- and long-term support for all of the Pavarotti projects. We, the undersigned patrons, wish to maintain our status as War Child patrons, but feel unable to do so unless the above urgent actions are taken ... We await your earliest response.’
6 Letter to War Child from James White, Finance Director, Universal Records, August 19th, 1999: ‘I am pleased to be able to present War Child two cheques, the first for £133,259, representing the balance of monies due for worldwide royalties due on the “Miss Sarajevo” single and the same song on the Passengers album. The second for £7,961 (after deduction of Gift Aid) for the profits on the UK single release. This represents accounting up to 31/12/98. Future accounting will be dealt with directly by our royalties department; Andy Harwood is the contact. Recently I spoke with the representatives of the artists involved and was asked to convey their wish that these monies be passed directly to the Pavarotti Music Centre in Mostar. Please don’t hesitate to call if you require further information.’
7 Note on War Child Trustees: Twelve Trustees resigned as a direct result of the crisis in War Child: (as of Feb 2001) Sylvester McCoy (actor); Tim Spencer (lawyer) first resignation; Khawar Qureshi QC, Chair (barrister); Berry Ritchie (journalist); Liz Huhne (Justice of the Peace); Ed Morris (charity adviser); Keith Turner (accountant); Tim Spencer, Chair (lawyer) second resignation; Andy Macdonald (record producer); Anthea Norman-Taylor (music publisher); John Gaydon (music promoter); Kate Buckley (lawyer).
8 Anthea Norman-Taylor’s letter of resignation from Trustees, February 13th, 2000: ‘Dear All, After our meeting on Thursday, Kate summarised the situation to me again by saying the choices are to either split it up or wind it up. I have thought long and hard about this as I am sure we all have. I would like to reiterate what I have been trying to say for a year, which is not either of the above options. The Patrons and the music business were attracted to War Child because of its aim to think long-term about children in war zones, not to just deliver aid, as so many charities do already. The concept of the Pavarotti Music Centre epitomised that aim ... to provide a ‘safe haven’ from ethnic conflicts through the medium of music making. An ancillary part of this is music therapy. Although it cost a lot to build and run, the building was actually given (not sold) by the city authorities because they were convinced this was a valuable addition to the town and might help it heal the divide. I know I need not say more about the Centre because I know you all support its existence. But Pavarotti, Nicoletta and the many people in the music business who helped this happen are now being told by War Child that that project was an aberration, that in fact all War Child wants to do is send money to existing ‘in the field’ NGOs to provide immediate aid with food, clothing, medicine etc. You must be able to understand that this is deeply upsetting to Pavarotti (and the other Patrons) when so much time and thought and money has gone into researching other long-term projects to help children of war zones in other parts of the world. And as you know, he was also justifiably very concerned about the lack of financial controls over his other projects when being handled by War Child London. It is clear that the London office was/is being run by a management team who do not want to work with Pavarotti’s projects. I am astounded that Kate listens to the London office’s “expertise” on the subject, rather than the people who have actually been there and been involved (i.e. Nicoletta Mantovani, Johnny Carmichael, Tom Ehr and David Wilson). But that seems to be where we are. It is a difference of vision, I guess. The London office, with Kate’s support, are saying they want to go their own way. They suggest Pavarotti and those who think differently to them split off, basically that there be a divorce. My preference would be not to split and not to fold, but to have all the offices working together. But this just cannot happen with people who are against the Pavarotti projects running the London office. Kate seems to believe that our priority is to make David Wilson redundant. That would certainly make the London office happy. But this would not help the situation in that the other offices (certainly Italy, USA and Canada) cannot work with the London office because it is staffed by people antagonistic to their aims. As you know, I was in favour of David going back into the London office, but not as CEO. I had imagined a situation where we could have a London office being run by a new CEO and David working for a new body, War Child International say, which took care of long-term projects involved in healing through cultural exchange etc., i.e. to co-ordinate with the Pavarotti projects and hopefully a whole lot of new ones. David has many ideas on this front; he is a creative and hard-working person. I had thought then maybe we should wind it up ... that it was a total impasse. However, I know there are lots of ghastly implications and that lawyers and accountants would descend like vultures (sorry Kate), quite apart from the press. I cannot vote to wind it up, but neither can I vote to split it up. I cannot justify to myself or to the supporters I have brought in from the music business that War Child London would be a charity worth supporting. Their little projects from safe-play areas to diabetic medicine or food deliveries are being handled already by other charities. I would rather money went directly to GOAL, for example, to help the Sudanese situation. I cannot explain why the money has to first go to a London office where ridiculous overheads are maintained and deducted, then on to another charity. I find it especially galling that the public are then misled by press stories implying War Child are directly involved in creative projects for children of war. Furthermore, I see the staff are saying they have not had their pay rises. I have no alternative but to tender my resignation herewith and to inform the Patrons that I am doing so, giving my reasons as above. In any event the Patrons who signed the letter to the Trustees of February 10 will step down as Patrons since their views have been ignored. No doubt the London office will be delighted by both these moves and no doubt Bill Leeson and Bob Close, who are in close contact with the London staff, will feel vindicated. This is what they wanted all along. I am sorry to leave you all with such a situation, but as you know, I have put a tremendous amount of time and energy into War Child. However, I can no longer justify that devotion. With best wishes, Anthea Norman-Taylor.’
9 My redundancy letter, February 29th, 2000: ‘Dear David, I am writing following recent discussions amongst the Trustees. The Trustees have considered your report of November 1999. We apologise that it has taken some time to respond to this. The Trustees wished to have the view of Raymond, as Chief Executive at the time, on this report. That is why you received no immediate response to it from the Trustees. Raymond reported at a meeting of the Trustees in January and said that he did not believe that the report identified any sustainable role for you and that the charity could not justify creating roles given its present financial condition. That view is shared by the current Trustees and, moreover since the date of your report, it seems that the Patrons will have a reduced role in the light of Anthea’s resignation as Trustee, Brian’s resignation as a Patron and Anthea’s indication that many of the other Patrons will also resign. Moreover it is clear that relations between you and the staff in the office are strained. In the circumstances, and in the light of the present financial uncertainty of War Child, the Trustees have decided that they cannot identify any post to offer you at the present time and have accordingly concluded that it is not appropriate to continue to employ you. I am writing therefore to give you notice of termination of your employment by reason of redundancy. You are entitled to a week’s notice for every year that you have worked. I believe that you have worked seven full years and on that basis give you notice that your contract will end on 19 April, 2000. You are also entitled to a redundancy payment. This is calculated at £345 for each year of service. The Trustees do not require you to work during your notice period. Accordingly, I enclose a cheque for £5,470.42, being your pay during your notice period and your redundancy payment. There is an outstanding issue in relation to your claim to expenses. The Trustees have considered these and given the uncertainty of your position since September have exceptionally decided to pay the majority of these expenses even though many of them were unauthorised. The Trustees are not prepared to sanction the trip to the United States. Authority for expenditure of this size should have been sought before it was incurred. Accordingly I enclose a cheque for £621.73 in relation to these expenses. With regard to property and papers belonging to the charity we should be grateful if you could return these to the offices of War Child. If you have any information in relation to the Music Centre or otherwise that you believe should be known to the charity, please forward this to the office as well. Yours sincerely, Kate Buckley, Chair of Trustees.’
10. I prepared a letter in reply to Kate which I never sent. In it, I wanted to ask why value was given to Raymond’s opinion when he had been in post for such a short time and seemed to have fled to Thailand. I wanted to remind her that the Patrons and most of the Trustees had resigned in support of me and that the new Trustees had never met me. That it could not be the case that relationships between myself and the War Child office staff had been ‘strained’ since 1997 when I’d been in Mostar; most of them had never met me. That the argument that my trip to meet Pavarotti in New York should have been sanctioned was ridiculous. Was I supposed to have contacted Bill and asked for his permission to take a flight to report on his misdoings? I wrote a report to the Charity Commission, but they, and the War Child lawyers, refused to read it or see me. Their grounds were that they could only deal with the Trustees and that I was no longer employed by War Child and therefore had no official position. Catch 22.
12 Guardian articles on War Child: ‘Stars Quit Charity in Corruption Scandal’, David Hencke, January 10th, 2010. ‘It Seemed Close to Deceitful that Our Money Hadn’t Gone Where It Ought to’, Interview with Brian Eno, January 10th, 2010. ‘Charity Returns £41,000’, David Hencke, Guardian, January 17th, 2001.
13 ‘The Commission Has Been Too Slow to Act’, Guardian editorial, January 10th, 2001. ‘War Child UK, the charity set up to help victims of the Bosnian war, is in serious trouble. Luciano Pavarotti and five other celebrity patrons have walked out of the high-profile overseas aid charity. Eleven trustees have resigned. A joint investigation by the Guardian and Channel 4 News shows that Bill Leeson, one of its co-founders, and Mike Terry, a consultant, took a bribe from contractors building a Bosnian music therapy centre, named after the Italian tenor. Though it was later repaid by the charity, the two men are still involved with the charity. There is also grave concern about high administrative expenses, poor accounting, inadequate management structures. A spokesman for Mr Pavarotti said yesterday that he did not want to be associated with anything corrupt. He had asked about a Liberian children’s project, but had had to wait for a year before he could get the accounts to discover that administration had absorbed much of the expenditure. As a result, he personally directed that all future money from him for former War Child UK projects in Yugoslavia, Liberia and Guatemala should be funded by different charities, following which, when the Kosovo crisis broke, a $1m donation was sent to the United Nations refugee agency. Nigel Osborne, professor of music at Edinburgh University and former Director of Music for the centre, described the bribe as “a catastrophic betrayal”. It was the revelation of the bribe that prompted the patrons to act. They called for the retirement of Mr Leeson, the dissolution of the management committee, and the transfer of the Pavarotti project out of War Child UK’s control. But nothing happened, leading to an exodus of patrons and trustees. It was a sad development in a charity that won the support of a new generation of pop stars. Many of the biggest names helped raise money for it in the mid 1990s. Other patrons included Sir Tom Stoppard, the playwright, and Juliet Stevenson, the actor. What lessons can be learned? The Trustees clearly behaved responsibly. Thwarted by the charity’s management, they wrote to the Charity Commissioners in June 1998 about the lack of reports to Trustees and the refusal to arrange suitable meetings. They also complained of the “financial impropriety”. Two further letters were sent the same year complaining about the lack of financial information, the reluctance of Mr Leeson to cooperate, and the need for a full-time paid trustee to fill in the gaps in their knowledge and to examine whether Mr Leeson could be dismissed. The Chairman of the Trustees called in an independent auditor and independent solicitors. Yet they were still unable to budge the charity’s management. Hence the decision of 11 Trustees to resign. The Charity Commission is conducting a financial audit but has moved much too slowly. It is 30 months since it was alerted to serious problems in the charity and yet it has still not produced a report or made public any recommendations. The Commission’s procedures are notorious for being ponderous and antiquated. John Stoker, the Chief Charity Commissioner, is planning to upgrade its monitoring role, helped by a two-year 40% boost to its funding that begins in April 2002. But with a current £20m budget and a staff of 500, it should already be able to move more quickly to deal with a serious complaint. Quite separate from its regulatory role, the Commission needs to review the advice it gives trustees. War Child Trustees wanted to dismiss their unsatisfactory managers but failed. With better advice, they should have been able to get their way.’
14 Bill Leeson: ‘Do-Gooders Need Not Apply’. Cheryl Dahle, May 31st, 1999 and published in June 1999 issue of Fast Company Magazine. ‘Bill Leeson, the outspoken co-founder of one of Great Britain’s most high-profile charities, believes that you can do good works without being a do-gooder. “I am a deal maker. I make deals to get my story out.” Bill Leeson doesn’t have much patience for do- gooders. Ask him to talk about most nonprofits – outfits bound by tradition and filled with self-importance – and the hot-headed Brit finds it hard to contain himself. “I hate the idea of charities as holier- than-thou organizations that set themselves apart from the world, as if they are the chosen ones that will fix things,” Leeson complains.
“We are the do-gooders that will sort out all of these problems. You just give us the money. That’s a bloody crock.” Think of War Child, the organization that Leeson co-founded six years ago to aid children in strife-torn regions, as the anti-charity charity. It has delivered nearly 8 million pounds ($13 million) worth of aid and services to young people in the former Yugoslavia and in Africa – but it has a staff of just 15, and it operates on a lean 4% overhead. Its more ambitious projects (a music-therapy center for children in Mostar, Bosnia, completed in 1997; a soon-to-be-completed children’s-education center in Liberia) are decidedly unorthodox. And no matter how obscure the countries that it’s working in may be, War Child maintains a glamorous image in its home country, where it hosts “eat-ins” at chic restaurants and puts on concerts featuring Luciano Pavarotti, U2, Spice Girls, and Oasis. In short, Leeson has created a new breed of nonprofit – one that combines sympathy with savvy, noble ideals with self-interest, and good works with smart business. Leeson, now 55, got his first close-up view of war in 1993, when he traveled to Croatia to film a documentary on artists. His experience there changed his life – not just because of the violence that he saw, but because of the effect that the violence had on young survivors. Walking through the streets of Zagreb, he saw children’s drawings hanging in shop windows. “They were just what you’d expect of children’s artwork – stick figures drawn with brightly coloured crayons,” he says. “Except that they were pictures of guns and corpses. It was all stuff that these kids had seen with their own eyes. It was horrifying. I found it terribly difficult to go back to my normal job again.” So he didn’t. Soon after returning to London, Leeson organized a fund-raiser. Friends encouraged him to take personal control of how the money that he raised would be spent – instead of donating it to a charity whose overhead (according to War Child) would take as much as 12% off the top. Ten days later, War Child was born. From the start, Leeson recognized that his competition was not other charities – it was indifference and ignorance: “When people watch TV, they see a ten minute news program with half a dozen wars, each reduced to a 30-second sound bite. People get desensitised, and they flip the channel.” One of the organization’s first efforts was to sponsor a mobile bakery in Mostar. Instead of delivering rations to thousands of people for just a day, War Child supplied fresh bread to one village for several months. Donors who suffered from compassion fatigue suddenly heard stories about their dollars buying warm bread for families. War Child has also helped reforge the link between rock music and good works – a relationship that had become decidedly unhip to teenagers, who saw earlier efforts (such as the We Are the World: U.S.A. for Africa recording) as cheesy. “We had a generation of young people in the UK who felt that charity had nothing to do with them,” Leeson says. “We wanted to show them that charity could be cool.” War Child was able to persuade some of the UK’s hottest bands to write songs for an album. The CD, titled Help and produced by Brian Eno, raised £1.5 million ($2.4 million). Leeson also understands the power of the media. Starting with his first fundraiser, a concert in London’s Royal Festival Hall, he has always drawn impressive coverage. Part of War Child’s media success has been the result of connections: it helps to have friends who control the cameras. Plus, as the fighting in the Balkans has received more and more exposure, the plight of people in Bosnia and Croatia has gained in “popularity.” But neither of those reasons explains how War Child has managed to get such sustained coverage while so many other non-profits toil in obscurity. Leeson explains it this way: “I am a deal maker. I make deals to get my story out.” He’s not talking about bribes; he’s talking about working with the media to generate compelling footage and dramatic stories – a form of collaboration that is deemed taboo by many traditional charities. “The media world and the aid world have completely different agendas, but few nonprofits bother to try to understand what the media agenda is about.” source: http://www. fastcompany.com/37241/do-gooders-need-not-apply
15 Ed Vulliamy, ‘War Child and The Bosnian War 15 Years On’, The Observer, Sunday, July 4th, 2010