Tyco cancels LaGrant Foundation internship program

PRINCETON, NJ: Tyco International is canceling its final year of commitment to a minority internship program with the LaGrant Foundation, and asking the foundation to pay back $70,000 that would have been spent on the program this year.

PRINCETON, NJ: Tyco International is canceling its final year of commitment to a minority internship program with the LaGrant Foundation, and asking the foundation to pay back $70,000 that would have been spent on the program this year.

In a letter to the foundation, Tyco SVP of human resources Laurie Siegel wrote, "due to Tyco's recent announcement of its intent to spin-off various business segments of Tyco, Tyco is unable to provide an environment conducive to providing the appropriate level of interaction necessary for an internship program for the upcoming 2006 calendar year."

PRWeek Editor-in-Chief Julia Hood is a member of the foundation's board, and received the letter along with other board members.

The letter goes on to state that "it is Tyco's understanding that LaGrant has already expended approximately $30,000 of the $100,000" of the money already paid for this year's program, and asks the foundation to refund the remaining $70,000 to the company by March 24.

The LaGrant Foundation works to increase the numbers of minorities in the PR, marketing, and advertising professions. The Tyco money was part of a three-year, $300,000 commitment by the company, signed in 2004, to place at least ten interns per year in Tyco's marketing and communications departments.

LaGrant Foundation founder and president Kim Hunter, who also heads LaGrant Communications, called Tyco's request "absolutely ludicrous."

"I have never heard of a company of this size...[making] a donation to a foundation based upon what we agreed upon, and because the company and the board made a decision to sell off divisions, they would ask for the money back," he said.

A call to Siegel's office was referred to Sheri Woodruff, Tyco's media relations head, who declined to comment on any aspect of the matter.

"I don't confirm or deny what we would consider to be the content of internal documents," she said.

Hunter said that Tyco had earlier proposed deferring the final year of the internship program's money until 2007, after the company's reorganization was completed. Another alternative discussed, he said, was placing the 2006 interns with different companies, while still referring to them as members of the Tyco internship program. He questioned why neither of those alternatives was offered in Siegel's letter.

The Tyco interns for 2006 had already been chosen. Hunter said that the foundation has sent them a letter informing them that the program will not be happening this year.

Hunter also said that the figure of $30,000 that had already been spent on this year's program was an initial estimate on his part. After review, he said, the foundation has in fact already spent $46,000.

Tyco's initial commitment to the program came under the stewardship of Charles Young, the company's former SVP of marketing and communications. Young left Tyco in January under circumstances that the company has refused to clarify.

Hunter said that he is continuing to negotiate with Tyco on the remaining money, but said it is "highly unlikely" that the foundation would return $70,000 as requested. Asked what the impact of losing the money would be, he said, "It would be a devastating blow. Tyco was our largest funder."

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