Settlement reached in Koret lawsuit: Susan Koret, Tad Taube both to leave board

A settlement reached in the case that pitted Koret Foundation chair Susan Koret against members of the Koret board, most notably longtime president Tad Taube, will result in both Susan Koret and Taube leaving the foundation’s board.

Taube and Koret

Susan Koret is retiring from the board immediately and Taube will retire on April 1, according to a news release issued by Susan Koret and the foundation.

“The Koret Foundation will continue its programs in furtherance of charitable, educational, religious, scientific and literary purposes, including charitable giving to the Jewish community,” the release said.

The settlement was approved Sept. 28 by San Francisco Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow.

“The proposals are exactly right, the settlement is reasonable, it places the interests of the foundation above the individuals,” Karnow said from the bench, ending a case that evolved from a feud between Koret and Taube, who lead two of the Bay Area’s largest philanthropies centered on issues involving Judaism and Israel.

Susan Koret has been the foundation’s board chair, a position she was granted for life by her late husband, Joseph Koret. Taube, who has been a foundation trustee for the past 37 years, also chairs his own charitable organization, Belmont-based Taube Philanthropies.

Susan Koret filed suit in 2014 seeking to have Taube and former Koret general counsel Richard Greene removed from the board of the $600 million foundation.

The lawsuit further demanded recovery of millions of dollars Susan Koret claimed were granted to projects outside the scope of Joseph Koret’s original mission of helping the poor and aiding Jewish communities in the Bay Area and Israel.

The news release did not say whether there were any monetary damages awarded as part of the settlement.

The suit claimed Taube “autocratically controlled the Koret Foundation as a personal piggy bank to aggrandize his name and funnel millions of dollars annually to favored causes, many of which are politically and socially at odds with the core mission of the foundation.”

The San Francisco-based Koret Foundation has issued nearly $500 million in grants since its founding in 1979, supporting education, hospitals, humanitarian groups, the arts and Jewish life in the Bay Area. It supports similar projects in Israel, and in recent years also has focused on Jewish life in Poland.

The suit accused Taube of diverting Koret Foundation funds to Jewish projects in his native Poland – including the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, which opened in 2014 – as well as to conservative U.S. groups such as Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

Susan Koret also contended the foundation had losses of about $34 million because of actions taken by Taube and other board members, including the untimely sale of Bay Area real estate and expenses related to the Hoover Institution and other causes.

Taube, who was born in Poland, fled the Nazis as a child and went on to make a fortune in real estate and venture capital in Northern California, served as Koret president for 32 years until he stepped down in June 2014, though he has remained on the board.

Susan Koret met Joseph Koret when she was hired as a caregiver for his first wife, Stephanie. Susan Koret married the clothing and real estate magnate after Stephanie Koret’s death in 1978.

During two weeks of testimony in April, at times the trial devolved into character attacks on Taube and Susan Koret. Taube was questioned about unwanted advances women said he made toward them, while Susan Koret had trouble describing the Holocaust while on the witness stand.

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Dan Pine

Dan Pine is J.'s news editor. He can be reached at dan@jweekly.com.