Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at 6:00 AM
As it moves into the final phase of fundraising for a $350 million renovation and expansion project, the Cleveland Museum of Art remains a stable financial risk, in the eyes of the Standard and Poor's credit rating agency. A new S&P report says the museum maintains its AA+ rating despite a tumultuous year which saw the controversial departure of its director in October, and the celebrated completion of the eight-year construction phase at the end of December.
At the start of construction in 2005, S&P gave CMA a AAA rating --- the highest ever for an art museum --- in response to bonds issued on behalf of the museum by the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority. Then came the recession and a downgrade from S&P due to "fundraising uncertainties". The institution has seen several leadership turnovers over the past 15 years, culminating in the resignation of David Franklin over revelations of an extra-martial affair with a CMA employee.
The Standard & Poor's report says its new credit rating was "somewhat tempered by the museum's continued turnover in management." The agency also expressed concern about the "museum's significant reliance on endowment income...to support annual operations". Still, S&P expressed optimism that the museum will be able to successfully complete its fundraising efforts, due to a good track record. This past January, the Plain Dealer calculated that another $77 million needed to be raised. --- David C. Barnett