In early 2008, GLAAD and the Commercial Closet, the fairness-to-gays advertising advocacy group founded by Michael Wilke, decided to merge. Milke says he thought he was going to continue to a position running the Commercial Closet for GLAAD, but only found this week out via press release that he’d been terminated.
Negotiations for a January 2009 merger had been all but finalized, and in June, Wilke and his editorial director had moved into GLAAD’s New York offices. On Monday, days after learning from his board of directors that the merger had gone through two months ahead of schedule, Wilke says he found out from an article on Advertising Age’s website that he would no longer be with the organization he saw blossom into a full-time venture almost eight years ago. “There wasn’t supposed to be a shutdown,” Wilke told Advocate.com. “That was never planned. I know the board was very concerned about being in the black at the end of the year, so their solution was to cancel our big fund-raiser and to let me go.”
Stephanie Blackwood, who sits on CCA’s board as the vice president and previously served as the associate publisher of The Advocate in the mid 1990s, says the Ad Age article couldn’t possibly have been the first Wilke learned of his termination. She says he was let go at a board meeting held on the fourth of November. Wilke had just returned from a 10-day trip to Russia — a trip Blackwood says she and the rest of the board had to hear about through second party sources. Wilke left for Russia on October 24. While he was gone, Wilke says the board made the decision to dissolve CCA.
Blackwood says the board called an emergency meeting the day Wilke was due to leave the country to discuss financial problems and possible solutions. Wilke didn’t attend. Blackwood says that in Wilke’s absence, the board had to move forward with further discussions, but agreed to meet with Wilke upon his return. By the time he got back, Blackwood says the board had already been forced to take “drastic action.”
Advocate has a lengthy story about the situation. According to GLAAD, Milke was resisting sharing the financials of Commercial Closet prior to the merger. I attended a Commercial Closet event a couple of years ago, story and photos here. It will be interesting to see how GLAAD moves forward with Wilke’s important work.