TV | March 12, 2020 6:00 am

Legendary Explorers Club Signs Controversial Deal With Discovery Channel

Members see it as “a thrust to the heart” of the 116-year-old organization

Richard Wiese at the Explorers Club
Richard Wiese, president of the Explorers Club, at the headquarters in April 2018.
Patrick McMullan via Getty

In our current age of radical transparency, the 116-year-old Explorers Club is one of the few old-world institutions that retains its secrecy and exclusivity. The mansion on Manhattan’s Upper East Side that acts as the scientific and exploratory society’s headquarters is especially legendary, holding artifacts from famous members including a lion shot by Theodore Roosevelt and the club’s flag Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins brought to the moon.

That secrecy may soon change, as president Richard Wiese has signed a partnership between the club and the Discovery Channel. As Adventure Journal explains in a deep dive on the deal, many of the members fear the business venture will ruin the mission and reputation of the Explorers Club. 

According to Adventure Journal, the deal amounts to $8.5 million for the Explorers Club over five years, which would be used to renovate the headquarters and fund expeditions. The New York Post initially reported on the potential deal in January, but Wiese sent an email to chapter chairs in March confirming the deal was done.

“Regarding Discovery, we are thrilled to share that this historic partnership has been signed by both parties, and will update the full membership in the very near future,” reads the email, according to Adventure Journal. 

So what does Discovery get in exchange? Rights over the aforementioned expeditions, access to normally off-limits areas of the headquarters (including office space for Discovery staff), licensing rights to the Explorers Club brand (including the club archives), and apparently even rights to put the Discovery name on the building, which is currently named after Lowell Thomas, the late journalist and member who funded the building’s purchase in 1965.

The members who oppose the deal, living up to the tenacity of the club, are not going down without a fight. Adventure Journal published a letter from 20-year member Julian Monroe Fisher sent to others in the Explorers Club on March 2, which sums up the opposing argument like this: 

“The current deal is an overreaching, one-sided proposal in favor of Discovery that would irreparably impact the Club’s assets, mission, reputation and legacy.”

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