Harold Meyerman, ex-banker who aided Palm Springs museum, dies at 76

 Harold Meyerman, ex-banker who aided Palm Springs museum, dies at 76
Banker Harold Meyerman in his L.A. office in the First Interstate Bank Building in 1989. Meyerman died Jan. 21 at age 76. (Larry Bessel, Los Angeles Times)

Harold Meyerman, a prominent banker who in retirement oversaw a turnaround of the financially troubled Palm Springs Art Museum, died Jan. 21 at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage. He was 76.

The cause was pneumonia as the result of a compromised immune system, said Greg Polzin, the museum's director of development.


Meyerman's banking career included a high-level stint with Los Angeles-based First Interstate Bank. He resigned in 1992 as chief executive of its merchant bank unit and then worked at what was then called Chase Manhattan Bank. He was also on the boards of several institutions before retiring in 2001.

By then, he and his wife, Dorothy, had a home in Palm Springs that overlooked the museum designed by famed Midcentury Modern architect E. Stewart Williams. The institution, founded in 1938, was going through a rough period.

"Unfortunately, the museum had an expansion phase in the mid-'90s and was still paying off the residual debt from that," Polzin said. "A portion of the endowment was used to do so."

Meyerman, who joined the museum's board in 2003, was called upon to use his financial experience to get it on firmer footing. He formulated what came to be known as the Meyerman plan.

It sought to increase the endowment by soliciting donations — he and his wife gave $4 million toward that effort. With direct donations and pledges, the endowment is expected to grow to about $24 million in the next few years, Polzin said. That's about 21/2 times larger than when Meyerman joined the board.

He also looked for ways to streamline the operation, leading to staff layoffs. And under his plan, fees were raised for local groups using the museum's auditorium, causing some to seek other performance spaces.

"My goal has been to get our financial house in order," he told the Desert Sun in Palm Springs last year, so that the museum could focus on artistic endeavors and "stand for something, whatever it us, but have us stand for something."

He became chairman of the museum board in 2006 and held that position until his death.

Meyerman was born Sept. 3, 1938, in Deventer, the Netherlands. He immigrated in 1957 to Canada, where he began his banking career at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

He later went to the University of British Columbia, where he earned a bachelor's degree in commerce and business administration in 1967, and a law degree in 1970.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by his brother Gerald of Ridge, Md.

Twitter: @davidcolker