New­seum CEO steps down as it con­sid­ers sell­ing, clos­ing

The fa­cil­ity, which drew 800,000 vis­i­tors last year, can’t com­pete with free Smith­so­nian mu­se­ums

USA TODAY US Edition - - MONEY - Roger Yu

New­seum may close.

The fi­nan­cially strug­gling news mu­seum in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., said Wed­nes­day its CEO stepped down, and it’s con­sid­er­ing sell­ing the build­ing or mov­ing to a new lo­ca­tion be­cause of in­suf­fi­cient vis­i­tor traf­fic.

Other op­tions be­ing con­sid­ered by the Free­dom Fo­rum, the foun­da­tion that owns the build­ing, are sell­ing and leas­ing the build­ing back, form­ing part­ner­ships or de­vel­op­ing con­do­mini­ums for shared use.

The foun­da­tion’s “strate­gic re­view” doesn’t im­me­di­ately af­fect New­seum’s pro­grams for vis­i­tors, it said.

Lo­cated on Penn­syl­va­nia Av­enue be­tween the White House and the Capi­tol, New­seum sits on a prime down­town lo­ca­tion steps away from Smith­so­nian mu­se­ums and other tourist at­trac­tions, such as Chi­na­town.

New­seum drew more than

800,000 vis­i­tors in 2016. But com­pet­ing with free Smith­so­nian mu­se­ums for vis­i­tors’ time and at­ten­tion, it hasn’t been able to in­de­pen­dently fund its op­er­a­tions through vis­i­tors’ fees and has had to rely on the foun­da­tion to nar­row the deficit.

The mu­seum’s rev­enue, which is re­ported sep­a­rately, was $59.3 mil­lion in 2015, the last year it filed the fig­ure with the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice. Ex­penses to­taled $61.9 mil­lion.

“It has been dif­fi­cult to raise through ad­mis­sion fees what it costs to op­er­ate a world-class mu­seum in a city of free mu­se­ums,” New­seum said in a state­ment. “Be­cause of its highly tech­ni­cal, in­ter­ac­tive ex­pe­ri­ences, the New­seum’s an­nual op­er­at­ing costs have al­ways ex­ceeded rev­enues.”

The Free­dom Fo­rum said it has spent more than $500 mil­lion to build and fund the New­seum.

The foun­da­tion re­ported $13.3 mil­lion in rev­enue in 2015. It had

$42.3 mil­lion in to­tal ex­penses. The Free­dom Fo­rum was formed in 1991 by the late Al Neuharth as suc­ces­sor to a foun­da­tion started in 1935 by news­pa­per pub­lisher Frank Gan­nett, who started a me­dia com­pany un­der his name. Neuharth was also CEO of Gan­nett when the com­pany started pub­lish­ing USA TO­DAY. Gan­nett has since spun off its news­pa­per and on­line news busi­ness and re­named it­self Tegna. The news­pa­per and on­line news busi­ness, which has taken the name of Gan­nett, owns USA TO­DAY and 109 lo­cal news prop­er­ties.

Jef­frey Herbst, who was New­seum’s CEO for the past two years, stepped down Mon­day.

SAUL LOEB, AFP/GETTY IMAGES

The New­seum is on Penn­syl­va­nia Av­enue be­tween the White House and the Capi­tol.

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