DETROIT – Criminal justice advocates in a letter to the NBA and in a full-page ad in the New York Times are calling for Greek-American billionaire to cut ties with Securus Technologies, a prison phone company owned by the private equity firm Platinum Equity which was founded by Gores in 1995, Crain’s Detroit Business reported on December 20. Gores, chairman and CEO of Platinum, also owns the Detroit Pistons basketball team.
Just days before the NBA season is set to begin, the letter, addressed to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and in the full-page ad in Sunday's New York Times, “criminal justice advocates are calling on the league to force Gores to sell the Detroit Pistons and step down from the NBA board because of his ties to Securus Technologies Inc.,” Crain’s reported, adding that “the letter is part of a broader campaign that has called on private equity firms, investment managers and pension funds to divest from companies that operate in correctional facilities and profit from mass incarceration.”
Efforts to address criminal justice reform intensified following the killing of George Floyd in May which “became a catalyst for protests against systemic racism in the U.S. criminal-justice system,” Crain’s reported.
"If Black Lives Matter, what are you doing about Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores?" reads the ad, which is also “addressed to other club owners including Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. co-founder Joseph Tsai, former Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer, and NBA legend Michael Jordan,” Crain’s reported.
"Mr. Gores continues to amass wealth and benefit from a system that exploits Black people and profits from their pain," Bianca Tylek, executive director of Worth Rises, the non-profit organization that placed the ad, wrote in a Dec. 10 letter seen by Bloomberg, Crain’s reported.
According to the Worth Rises website, “We just forced Tom Gores, whose private equity firm owns the nation’s most predatory prison telecom corporation, to resign from LACMA [Los Angeles County Museum of Art]. But he’s still charging families egregious rates to connect with incarcerated loved ones.”
Gores “had been a trustee at the museum since 2006,” ArtNews reported in October after his resignation letter addressed to LACMA CEO and director Michael Govan was posted on the Platinum website.
Gores wrote in the letter dated October 8, about being asked at a LACMA board meeting, “Okay Tom, we appreciate your efforts to ‘take the hill’ and reform Securus. But why does LACMA have to take the hill with you?”
Gores responded in his letter, “The simple answer is: You don’t. Effective immediately, I resign my position on the board and forego all ties to the institution.”
He continued, “Each of us has a choice to step up and face hard truths about race and justice that boiled over this summer but have simmered in our country for generations. I choose to step up and address these issues out loud and out front, as I always have across all of my business and personal interests.”
“My decision to step away from the board is based on relieving LACMA of any further distraction and ensuring that the transformation work at Securus, and in all of our businesses, continues to move forward with vigor and passion,” Gores explained in his letter.
“Representatives for Securus owner Platinum Equity, the private equity firm Gores founded, as well as Securus and the NBA could not be immediately reached [for comment] Sunday [Dec. 20],” Crain’s reported, adding that “Gores has said previously that he is committed to reform Securus' business practices and to make its services more accessible and affordable.”