Kenneth Cole steps down as amfAR chairman amid controversy

Mark Kennedy, AP Entertainment Writer

FILE - In this Oct. 13, 2017 file photo, Kenneth Cole attends the 2017 amfAR Inspiration Gala Los Angeles in Beverly Hills, Calif. Cole has resigned as chairman of the board of the AIDS charity amfAR. The group’s board of trustees says Cole and several other trustees agreed to “graciously” resign after the board implemented term limits and Cole had served longer than the new limits that were adopted. But the move also comes as federal prosecutors in Manhattan look into financial dealings in 2015 between amfAR, Harvey Weinstein and the American Repertory Theater, which produced Weinstein’s musical “Finding Neverland.” (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)

NEW YORK (AP) -- Fashion designer Kenneth Cole has resigned as chairman of the board of the AIDS charity amfAR.

The group's board of trustees said Cole and four other trustees agreed to "graciously" resign Wednesday after the board implemented term limits. Cole had served longer than the new limits that were adopted.

But Cole's move also comes as federal prosecutors in Manhattan look into financial dealings in 2015 among amfAR, Harvey Weinstein and the American Repertory Theater.

Authorities are trying to find out if fraud occurred when $600,000 raised at an amfAR auction went to the theater company that had produced Weinstein's musical "Finding Neverland." The musical is adapted from the 2004 whimsical film of the same name about a widow whose four young sons inspired playwright J.M. Barrie to write the children's classic "Peter Pan." The $20 million show failed to recoup.

Cole was a leader of amfAR, which stands for American Foundation for AIDS Research, at the time.

In a statement Thursday, the group didn't mention the fraud allegation, saying only that Cole had served the group with "extraordinary dedication."

"Under his leadership we have raised hundreds of millions of dollars for AIDS research, had a profound impact on millions of people's lives and gotten closer to our ultimate goal of finding a cure for this insidious disease," the statement read.

In his own statement, Cole said he had "proudly served" on the amfAR board and will serve as honorary chairman, helping elect the new chairman. He said he supported the board's term limit reform.

Cole has had a long relationship with amfAR, joining its board in 1987. He was elected vice chairman in 2002 and chairman of the board three years later. He has also designed the group's advertising, including the "We All Have AIDS" public service campaign in 2005.

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