Philanthropist and retired AOL co-founder Marc Seriff has been named the permanent president and chief executive officer of the Long Center for the Performing Arts, board chair Patsy Woods Martin announced today.
Seriff replaces Jamie Grant, who is leaving this week for a new post as president and chief executive officer at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul, Minn.
Seriff has been acting as interim president and CEO since Grant announced his resignation in January.
Seriff, 67, had been on the Long Center board since it opened in 2008 until he resigned last year to join the organization’s staff as vice president of special projects, a job created specifically for him and for which he took a $1 salary.
Martin said the Long Center board had formed a search committee and worked with a search consultant on a national search. But after interviewing Seriff, Martin said the board was confident despite his lack of a professional arts administration resume.
“He knows how to run a business, and he’ll be able to implement changes in shorter order than someone from the outside,” Martin said. “Marc will continue to operate the business in the black and build relationships with the community.”
“We felt like we went through the (search) process properly,” she said. “And it became clear that Marc was the best candidate for the position. We have a vision, and in the five months he’s been on the job, Marc has been very capable of helping us focus that vision.”
No other candidates for the position were interviewed, Martin said.
Instead of his current $1 salary, Seriff will receive a salary commensurate with other senior arts leaders in the field, Martin said. “It’s not in the best interest of the Long Center to have a CEO who is not paid commensurate with others in the profession.” Martin declined to reveal Seriff’s salary.
A native Austinite with degrees in mathematics and electrical engineering, Seriff retired in 1996 as the founding chief technical officer for America Online.
Since then, Seriff has acted as philanthropist, serving as a trustee of the Austin Community Foundation and the Boys and Girls Club of the Highland Lakes as well as on the director’s council of the University of Texas’ Department of Theatre and Dance.
Seriff also chaired the board of directors for Austin Musical Theatre, an organization that produced traditional musicals at the Paramount Theatre on a dazzling scale for seven seasons until it ran out of cash in 2002.
Built with private money and operated by a private nonprofit, the Long Center sits on 7 acres of city-owned property.
The permanent venue for Austin Opera, Austin Symphony Orchestra and Ballet Austin, the center also presents its own roster of shows. Its operating budget is now $11.8 million.