Former employees are spilling the beans on the extravagant spending and head-scratching decision-making by now-fired CEO George Jacob. He’s hired former SF supervisor Angela Alioto as his attorney, but that may be little help as the feds are reportedly sniffing around.

When pretty much the entire staff of the Bay Institute up and quit on the same day in late May, supposedly over some academic dispute over peer review of research, you wondered if there might be more to this story. There was. A few days later the Bay Institute's parent nonprofit, which also operates the Aquarium of the Bay, told its CEO George Jacob to resign amidst reports of lavish spending while the aquarium infrastructure was crumbling. And that neglected aquarium lost its accreditation the very next day, though the Fisherman’s Wharf facility does remain open.

Some of those departed staff members are now talking to the press, and in detailed terms at that. The Chronicle has so much of that detail in their new report on Jacob’s alleged profligate spending of the institute’s money that departed employees are even spilling the beans on his expensive wardrobe; a lavish concert in Dubai where he wore “an aquamarine brocade jacket and red leather boots,” and a staff photo shoot where he donned “a pink-striped suit and paisley tie while volunteers wore matching white T-shirts.”

That concert in Dubai was one of the first revelations, a concert where Jacob blew a stunning $460,000 of’s money on travel for some “climate concert” featuring Stewart Copeland of The Police. We’re now learning that Jacob not only attended the concert, but helped organize it as a “fundraiser” for the organization, again on’s dime.  

For the $460,000 investment, the event took in $93,000.

The Chron digs more dirt in finding that Jacob’s first trip as CEO was to Sir Richard Branson’s Caribbean private island, a trip that the Chronicle found was “without any tangible fundraising results." He held another fundraiser with Dr. Jill Biden, which also lost money, and therefore was not really so much of a “fundraiser.”

All of these schemes hoped to raise $240 million for turning the Aquarium of the Bay into some grand “Ecotarium” that would quadruple the facility’s size, but each lavish fundraiser seemed to lose more money every time. And they all had seemingly little to do with the actual Aquarium of the Bay, whose infrastructure was crumbling, the place was behind on rent, and getting phone calls from collection agencies daily.

But Jacob still had global visions for his “ecotarium.”

“We are setting up an Oceanarium in Jamaica,” he told a UN climate council the day after the Dubai concert, per the Chronicle. “We are focused on Galapagos. We are working on a project in Norway.”

The day he was ordered to resign, Jacob told the Chronicle he was leaving “to pursue a new project that I am very excited about.” But now that he’s hired former SF supervisor Angela Alioto as his attorney (yes, that Angela Alioto), their side is telling a different story.

“If it were not for my client, they would have had to close shop two years ago,” Alioto told the Chronicle.

But’s newly installed board chair Jon B. Fisher, who ordered Jacob’s resignation, said that a federal law enforcement agency has contacted the nonprofit in regards to Jacob’s handling of the finances. And a former SF supervisor as your attorney may not be much help when the feds are closing in.

Jacob reportedly fired his CFO in 2019 (which might have helped hide the spending?), and the Chronicle notes that after that a “$700,000 loan intended to upgrade infrastructure went to back rent, payroll software and miscellaneous credit card expenses.” Jacob also reportedly rented new offices, though office space was available at the aquarium, and made a curious $10,000 splurge on yoga wear to sell at the museum’s gift shop.

And does it sound like a vanity project that he used institute funds to publish “books authored by Jacob about the future of museum design and tourism in California,” as the Chronicle describes them?

The obvious question for a nonprofit here is where was the board of directors this whole time? We noted that the new board chair Jon B. Fisher ordered Jacob to resign and started blowing the whistle on all this.

But his predecessor, ironically, was Ben Bleiman, owner of Tonic Nightlife Group (which operates Teeth and most recently Harrington's Bar & Grill). Bleiman is also the founder of the SF Bar Owner Alliance, and currently president of City Hall’s SF Entertainment Commission.

Bleiman explained to the Chronicle that “Volunteering for 11 years to help run a small but scrappy aquarium is a really hard job — but it was a passion of mine. He added that “I’ve nothing but confidence that they’ll keep the aquarium open for San Francisco families to enjoy.”

And Jacob’s problems should perhaps not come as a huge surprise. His previous position was with the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum in Alberta, Canada. He was reportedly asked to resign in 2016, as the institution needed a government bailout amidst a financial mismanagement scandal.

Related: Bay Institute and Aquarium of the Bay Scandal Explodes, CEO Resigns Amidst Reports of Extravagant Spending [SFist]

Image: Cris I. via Yelp