Portland Pirates majority owner and CEO Ron Cain prides himself on being an avid philanthropist who has contributed to more than 20 charities.
Details of Cain’s philanthropy are difficult to pin down, however, in part because of his reluctance to disclose specific contributions or the name of his family charitable foundation.
Cain, who also owns Portsmouth, New Hampshire-based Legacy Holding Co., even formed his own nonprofit organization in 2010. But the venture was short-lived and did not perform much charity work, Internal Revenue Service documents show.
During an interview in May, Cain mentioned a charitable foundation through which he donates to charities. He did not respond to subsequent requests to divulge the name of the foundation, and the treasurer of his former nonprofit said Cain does not disclose that information because he prefers to remain anonymous.
One confirmed example of Cain’s philanthropy is the Center for Grieving Children, based in Portland with a site in Sanford that opened in late 2011.
“We have received financial contributions (from Cain’s company) two years running that are substantial,” said Elyse Tipton, the nonprofit’s marketing director.
In addition, Legacy Holding sent 30 volunteers to Sanford for a carefully planned service day of painting, repairing, steam-cleaning carpets, trimming bushes, raking leaves and moving furniture, she said. The volunteers also paid for all the paint and supplies used that day.
Tipton, initially hesitant to speak with a reporter because of Cain’s professed desire to keep a low profile, said she is grateful for all the corporate support the center receives.
“For some corporations it has been more important to receive recognition,” she said. “For Ron and Legacy, he let it be known it was not important to receive a great deal of recognition, that this is their corporate culture. He made it clear that he was looking for opportunities for his employees to benefit from volunteering and community service.”
Cain established his own charity in 2010 called the Legacy Center, which ultimately failed to find its target audience and was discontinued in 2013. However, Cain said he is converting the organization into a for-profit consulting firm.
While IRS records confirm that the charity existed, descriptions of exactly what Legacy Holding contributed to it differ among Cain, Legacy Center treasurer Ken Therriault and IRS documents.
Cain said Legacy Holding subsidiary Legacy Supply Chain Services contributed $250,000 a year to the Legacy Center while it was operating.
“We would just make donations into it,” he said. “It’s about $250,000 a year, and it goes into the salaries of those people.”
But the charity’s financial disclosure forms submitted to the IRS show only a single contribution of $10,000, in 2012.
Cain said the discrepancy exists because he chose not to report the larger contributions.
“We never claimed it,” he said. “We don’t do it as a tax write-off. That’s not the reason it was set up.”
The IRS reports, known as forms 990, show that the Legacy Center had no expenses in 2010 and 2011, and about $9,600 of expenses in 2012, its last year operating as a charity.
According to the Form 990 for 2012, the Legacy Center spent about $6,400 on administrative expenses and $3,200 on charity work that year.
With the $250,000 in annual contributions from Legacy Supply Chain added to the equation, that would mean the charity spent $756,400 on administrative costs over the three years it existed, while spending just $3,200 on charity work.
Therriault, the charity’s treasurer, said Cain’s company did not actually contribute $250,000 cash to the Legacy Center. Instead, $250,000 a year is the estimated value of the time his company employees volunteered to do work for the charity.
“There is no $250,000 contribution, donation or anything – just a value placed on the salaries of those who are employed by Legacy (Supply Chain Services) but volunteer for the Legacy Center,” he said.
As for the small amount spent on charity work, Therriault said it was because no one was interested in accepting the Legacy Center’s services, which he said involved teaching corporate and community values to companies and organizations.
“We got nothing,” he said. “What we found was that companies were asking, ‘Why are you giving this away?’ ”
As a result, Cain said he decided to convert the center into a for-profit consulting firm and start charging a nominal fee for its services, although its primary mission will remain philanthropic.
Steve Colburn, an expert on nonprofit accounting at the University of Maine, said one reason the Legacy Center may have failed to click with its intended audience is that the center’s website does a poor job of describing services it provides.
The home page of the website, legacy-center.com, opens with the following passage: “The Legacy Center leverages the power of cultural alignment to help organizations lay a foundation on which a successful, thriving enterprise can be built.”
Colburn, an associate professor of accounting at UMaine, said that type of language, which is consistent throughout the website, borders on the nonsensical.
“Cultural alignment? What the hell is that?” he said.
Colburn said the Legacy Center’s failure to disclose in-kind contributions from Cain’s company is “a little odd” but not necessarily against the rules.
Still, other, comparable charities do report all contributions and expenses to the IRS, he said.
Colburn also questioned why Cain monetized his company’s contributions of free labor to the Legacy Center and described them as donations.
“I think he’s just counting that for bragging rights,” Colburn said. “It makes him look good.”
Staff writer Glenn Jordan contributed to this report.