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Aquarium CEO at odds with developer Don Chiofaro

Aquarium CEO Nigella Hillgarth.CHRIS MORRIS FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE/Globe Freelance

In his long quest to redevelop the Harbor Garage, Don Chiofaro has a new, sharp, thorn in his side: Nigella Hillgarth.

Hillgarth is chief executive of the New England Aquarium, which has emerged in recent weeks as perhaps the fiercest critic of Chiofaro's bid to put two skyscrapers on the site of the garage next door. While city development officials wrangle with Chiofaro over the size of those towers, they've been getting an earful from Hillgarth and the aquarium, who have lobbied City Hall, commissioned a traffic study, and packed a public meeting on the project last week to make the case for a smaller development.


Hillgarth (below, with a penguin from the aquarium) stresses that the aquarium is not antidevelopment, but it sees the temporary loss of its parking as an existential threat for an institution with shallow pockets. About 40 percent of the aquarium's visitors — and much of its customer base of local families — arrive by car. And if they can't park for a few years . . .

"The bigger the project, the more you have to dig," she says. "That means loss of income for the aquarium."

Hillgarth is no veteran of Boston politics. An Oxford-educated Brit, she moved here last year, after 12 years of running an aquarium in San Diego. But her message may be sinking in at City Hall. The Boston Redevelopment Authority has begun meeting with Prudential Real Estate Investors, which actually owns most of the project, instead of dealing solely with Chiofaro. At that meeting last week, BRA chief Brian Golden said the authority won't put the aquarium at risk.

"That is the crown jewel," he said. "We feel very protective of the aquarium."

What Chiofaro feels for the place is less clear.

His company noted that it subsidizes parking for the aquarium "on the order of hundreds of thousands of dollars annually" and accused the current leadership there of engaging in "ambush diplomacy." Overtures to collaborate, it said, have been rebuffed.


Hillgarth sees it differently. She has sat down several times with the veteran developer, and did not sound impressed. "I'd hope that it would be more fruitful to work with Prudential," she said. — TIM LOGAN

The governor, women, and boards

By all accounts, Governor Charlie Baker gave a successful speech about gender equity during a breakfast held Friday by The Boston Club, a group that advocates for advancing women's careers. But not everyone left the room satisfied.

Baker talked about how there were many women on the board of directors when he ran the health insurer Harvard Pilgrim. He mentioned how he has hired women to be his top aides, such as administration and finance secretary Kristen Lepore and transportation secretary Stephanie Pollack. And he urged other male executives to essentially expand their circles of friends, to get more women into boardrooms. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

Malli Gero, cofounder of the Boston-based 2020 Women on Boards campaign, which pushes for more female board members, said she considers Baker to be "one of the guys that gets it." But she said she walked away disappointed when Baker passed up a chance during the Q&A to show more support for a nonbinding resolution, passed by both the House and the Senate earlier this year, recommending that corporate boards with at least nine members have a minimum of three women on them.


Asked later if Baker supports the resolution, press secretary Lizzy Guyton said, by e-mail, that Baker "believes companies should strive to increase gender diversity on boards by setting goals and disclosing their makeup." But she stopped short of endorsing any numeric targets.

Gero said it is important to set specific goals. "I think he could have made a bolder statement," Gero said. "Unless you really talk about very concrete things that the business community should do, we won't see change. . . . We're looking for more concrete initiatives." — JON CHESTO

Publicis to reorganize — again

The French advertising giant Publicis Groupe is embarking on another reorganization. But this time, its announcement appears to be a "no news is good news" sort of story for Boston. Last week, Publicis said it will now consist of four major divisions, each led by its own CEO. Of interest to Boston: Alan Herrick will be chief executive of the digital platform businesses, Publicis.Sapient, created when Publicis acquired Boston-based Sapient in February for $3.7 billion. The group includes digital marketing firms DigitasLBi and Razorfish.

CEO Maurice Levy essentially told the industry bible Ad Age that the four division heads represent a short list of candidates to replace him when he leaves in 2017.

Herrick, despite his position atop the Sapient empire, is based in Atlanta. But what happens at Publicis matters to Boston: After all, Sapient and Digitas still have major operations in the Back Bay and downtown, respectively. The Publicis press release made it clear Sapient and Digitas won't be merging, at least not anytime soon, a contrast to the marriage that combined Digitas and LBi in 2013. And that's got to be reassuring for workers of both agencies — and their landlords. — JON CHESTO


Innovation buzz — at pension fund!

Innovation may not spring to mind when you think of public pensions, but top executives at the state's Pension Reserves Investment Management board were recognized last week for some unusual practices.

Michael Trotsky, the $61.7 billion state pension fund's executive director, and deputy investment chief Sarah Samuels took home an "excellence in innovation" award at a New York event run by Chief Investment Officer magazine. Samuels also won an award for "next generation" leadership. The awards recognize their approach in a number of areas, in particular a project to save $100 million a year in hedge fund-related and other expenses. — BETH HEALY

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