Thursday, May 31, 2012

EXCLUSIVE: Mary J. Blige's FFAWN Partner Steve Stoute Confirms ALL Scholarships Still In Tact, Alleges Mismanagement From The Top

This week, reports surfaced of R&B star Mary J. Blige's charitable organization FFAWN (Foundation For The Advancement Of Women Now, Inc.) coming under fire for not repaying a $250,000 bank loan, as well as lawsuits against Mary and partner, mogul Steve Stoute (pictured above).  Mary has since been accused of allowing her charity to fall apart, ultimately hurting the benefactors.

Now, Steve Stoute reveals to the full story, the true culprit, and says all scholarships for FFAWN's young girls are still in place.
The NY Post reported earlier this week that Mary J. Blige's & Steve Stoute's FFAWN organization, which raises money to send several girls to college, as well as to fund her Yonkers Center for Women, was slapped with two lawsuits.  One for failing to pay the musicians' bands from a 2011 FFAWN Gala, and a second for failing to repay a TD Bank loan for $250,000 by December 2011.  TD Bank reported that the loan was acquired in June of 2011.  And only $368.33 was repaid.
Mary responded on Angie Martinez's radio show earlier this week saying, "It happens that FFAWN has been mismanaged and when I found out about all these issues and things that are going on concerning FFAWN, I immediately got on the phone with my lawyers and advisers and tried to rectify this and fix this so that none of those women would suffer that are going to college."
She continued about restructuring the company saying: "My goal is to do exactly what I set out to do and my motives were true and upfront. I set out to empower and encourage and help women because I got a second chance myself. I wanted to give them a second chance…. So right now as we speak I've hired a team of people that are making sure that my businesses are taken care of as far as FFAWN is concerned, we are not closing down, we are restructuring and we put a great team of people in place and I'm just proud to say that the grants, the scholarships that we set out to take care of will be taken care of. The Mary J. Blige Center for Women in Yonkers, everyone is in good standing."
Like many celebrity charities, a staff is hired to run their organization properly on a day-to-day basis.  Steve Stoute tells us the mismanagement is due to incompetence from a former staffer.

Steve reaffirmed to Mary's sentiments with more detail, saying each of the several young women who were promised college scholarships are still IN college and new recipients are still going.  He says their money is covered, despite mismanagement of the $250,000 loan in question. (Editor has removed other names of those involved for legality)
"Mary J. Blige has not wavered at all on her commitment to put these women through college, Steve tells  [The responsible party] ran this organization out of her home. The person still sits on the charitable boards of other high profile celebrity charities. And left this organization after last year's gala. They were the sole signer on this [TD Bank] loan and didn't even tell anyone."
Mr. Stoute alleges that the Executive took out the loan in order to cover the expenses of an "over-produced" gala.  Especially since, as Steve said, the gala did not raise the amount of funds expected. According to Steve, not only did the Executive leave the organization soon after the gala without notifying anyone about the loan, he & Mary were also unaware of who needed to be paid.
In response to the lawsuit filed by performers and their bands who claim they were not paid for their gala services, Steve tells us:
We did not know who the person responsible did pay and did not pay.  The person produced the event and didn't close the event. We had no insight into vendors and their payments.
Steve also claims that the former executive used the FFAWN charity to further their own agenda in chairing other high profile celebrity charities, as well as leveraging connections into another high profile position in the music industry.  And left as soon as things went awry. 
An Executive provided legal reasons as to why the charity offices needed to be moved from the Translation offices--Steve's company--into an Executive's own home, which, Steve explained, is why the bank and process servers were unable to reach a representative from the Foundation once the Executive left the charity.
Mr. Stoute maintains that there is no "missing money"--in response to allegations that partial sales of Mary's My Lifefragrance, intended for the Foundation, are nowhere to be found:
"Every single penny that the company took in has been donated. Mary has donated her time and performances and appearances for nothing in order to get this Foundation off the ground and running smoothly. All the money raised went to putting these girls through college. That's where it's always gone. There's no such thing as 'missing money'."
"I wish we would have known this person was not equipped to run this organization. Especially once it got to a certain size."
He does take full responsibility for not filing a 2010 tax return, saying, "We knew we didn't file and planned to file late, which is not out of the ordinary for any business.  We did put in for an extension." 
But Steve confirmed that all scholarship money, as well as Mary's Center for Women, are both in good standing despite these lawsuits. reached out repeatedly to the former Executive and staff for comment and received no response.

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