Ubiñas To Leave Ford Foundation In September

March 5, 2013       Mark Hrywna      

Luis Ubiñas will step down in September after six years as president of the Ford Foundation, the second-largest foundation in the world.

“One of the hardest things for a leader is to know when to step down. I believe it is when he has given as much as he can to the institution he leads,” Ubiñas said in a 954-word message to foundation staff.

Ubiñas was appointed president of the foundation in September 2007 at the age of 44, after 18 years with consulting firm McKinsey & Company. He succeeded Susan Berresford, who retired in January 2007.

Board of Trustees Chair Irene Hirano Inouye credited Ubiñas with leading the organization through challenging economic times, leaving behind an “institution that is even more focused in pursuit of its mission, operationally strong and efficient, and brimming with remarkable people and purpose.”

The Ford Foundation saw the value of its endowment drop to $8 billion after the financial crisis of 2008 before rebounding to nearly $11 billion last year. Headquartered in New York City, Ford is generally considered the second-largest foundation by asset size behind the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, whose assets are closer to $40 billion. The Ford Foundation made grants of $427 million in 2011, according to the organization’s most recent tax form. Ubiñas earned compensation of $833,115 that year.

He discussed his departure plans with the board during its meeting on Feb. 13-14, according to the foundation. A committee of the board has been established to oversee the search for a new president, which is under way and aims to conclude with a new leader by the time of Ubiñas’ departure in September. A specific date for his departure has not yet been set and will “depend on how best to ensure a smooth transition,” according to a spokesman. Ubiñas has not announced his next career move after Ford.

In the announcement from the foundation, Ubiñas was praised for enabling it “to achieve even greater scale and impact by concentrating grant resources behind a set of transparent strategies with clearly stated goals,” and permanently shifting nearly $25 million to grant making.

During his tenure, the foundation also launched its first program on climate change, promoted an initiative to end child marriage, and helped establish and fund a new program supporting films and documentaries that spotlight social justice issues worldwide.

At the same time he directed an evolution of the foundation’s investment strategy, allowing the nation’s second-largest philanthropy to recover all of the wealth lost in the financial crisis, as well as better insulating it from market fluctuations.

Over the next six months Ubiñas will visit many of the foundation’s field offices, complete a busy speaking agenda, and continue to promote fairness and dignity as core values that ought to shape policy on the critical issues now facing the country.

“The Ford Foundation was transformative to my early life,” Ubiñas said. “From its support for Head Start to its work to ensure college access, Ford’s work has made the life I have led possible. To be able to give back to an institution which has been so instrumental in my life has been a deep honor and privilege.”