by John Lipkin
It’s hard to imagine a world before Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johansson took part in their annual (or more) Marvel Cinematic Universe films, let alone before Tobey Maguire donned the red and blue suit of Spiderman.
But in 1999 Marvel was treading water trying to stay afloat. Changing consumer preferences away from print comics, the bursting bubble of the comic book industry in 1996, poor management practices at the top, and overspending sent the company tail spinning into bankruptcy. When it resurfaced, it did so with only $3 million in cash on hand, $250 million in high yield debt, and a stock price that hit a nadir of $0.96 per share.
That’s when Marvel’s Board of Directors took some key actions to right the ship. The Board pushed to bring in a new CEO, worked with Marvel’s management to heavily license Marvel’s superheroes for everything from school supplies to video games, spearheaded an international expansion, and guided the company in raising $525 million to create 10 movies, which are now popularly named Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. In 2009, Marvel was sold to Disney for $4.3 billion with a share price that had swelled to $54. The Marvel Cinematic Universe alone has grossed over $13.5 billion since 2002, making it the highest grossing franchise ever.
This story underscores the value that a good board can add to a company. And this is not unique to boards of for-profit organizations. Nonprofit organizations like CBOB still require a very similar set of competencies to drive growth and success of the nonprofit. Among overlapping features like role clarity, diverse skillsets, and strong relationships/trust between the board and the executive director/CEO, perhaps the most especially important feature to a nonprofit board is connection to organization’s mission.
I ultimately joined CBOB’s Board for that last reason. When I was asked to join in 2013, CBOB had been going through a difficult year. As somebody who – through service trips, service with the University of Florida chapter, and an internship with the organization – had seen first-hand the value that the organization provides and had been greatly impacted by it myself, I wanted to help CBOB get to a place where it would recover and thrive.
Over the last four and a half years, my role has shifted to a balance of the tactical, strategic, and mission-driven. Moreover, CBOB’s Board has made some incredible additions that have enabled us to evolve more and more into an effective board. Combine that with the transformational leadership of Andrea Ortega and the great work of her team, and I am confident that we will get to that point where we are providing the optimal level of guidance, support, and accountability. I’m just blessed that I get to be a part of it and help guide this wonderful organization.