Ted Aronson, boss at AJO Partners, the $20 billion-plus Philadelphia investment house, has been noted for several distinctions: his quantitative approach to stock-picking, which has bought him ownership (with wife Barbara) of the fanciest apartment in Center City; his best-ever response ever to a Dow-Jones writer who wanted to know why he didn't waste time schmoozing corporate CEOs and CFOs -- Because "they lie"; and his record as the only man Comcast boss Brian Roberts ever worked for (briefly, at the former Drexel brokerage), who wasn't Roberts' own dad.
Aronson has also, quietly, become the lead financial angel, joining Rohm and Haas heir Leonard Haas' Wyncote Foundation, lawyer-turned-venture capitalist Sherrill Neff, the Carter Rowe and Knight Foundations, and other backers in the $6.5 million Campaign for the Music to finance a new antenna and acts for World Cafe's 20th anniversary and "home improvements" to its funky-looking station space at 3025 Walnut St. (the old Hajoca plumbing factory) next to the Left Bank apartments.
Why XPN? The Penn grad says he's "been listening to (XPN disk jockey) David Dye since he was on WMMR in the 1970s. Though, I know, if you remember the '70s, you weren't there."
Plus because XPN, of all Philly public radio stations, is the one that does the most to promote local and off-brand and emerging music, and Aronson's own son is a rock-and-roll musician, based in Brooklyn, with a little studio and label, "and I adore him, and I can't deny it's hip to be hip in a 27-year-old's eye...
"The station says it's all about the music. I think it's really more like, it's all about the people, good, hard-working creative folks without Hollywood salaries," not quite like what you find at a lot of other big Philly nonprofits.
The Aronsons also give to Penn's Institute for Contemporary Art, and to the Penn hospital's neurology department; XPN is controlled by Penn, with a firm but a long leash and no direct financial support. So it fits the Aronson portfolio: "Arts have always been high on our list. Though I'm sorry to say our 'vast fortune' is heavy in real estate at the moment... XPN serves the community, and my ears."
Why does XPN need additional support? Membership and business support already funds 80% of the yearly budget. But that doesn't cover capital expenses like the needed antenna, Roger LaMay, the Fox TV refugee who runs WXPN, tells me. With federal support getting scarce, "public radio is at the bottom of the advertising food chain." That leaves the station dependent on its several thousand members' yearly checks, and its handful of big givers. (Updated)