Greg Mortenson had a good thing going with the Central Asia Institute while it lasted, buying his own books with funds from the group he controlled and reaping the royalties, the Montana Attorney General's Office concluded in the report it released Thursday. But now he's got to pay back a little more than $1 million, and he's going to have a harder time getting it from book sales.
The CAI won't go broke because of Mortenson's mismanagement -- it has $23 million in reserve, the Montana AG found -- but it will have to hire an accountant to go over its finances and see if Mortenson owes it any more than the $1.05 million he's already been ordered to repay. The 31-page report, which you can download from the AG's office, gives a thorough rundown on how Attorney General Steve Bullock says Mortenson mismanaged the charity he co-founded, flying on chartered jets to speaking engagements, using CAI funds to promote his books, and even dipping into the coffers to buy outdoor gear and pay for vacations. But one of the costliest things was the decision to spend $3.96 million on Mortenson's books at retail booksellers, which garnered royalty payments for Mortenson that he was supposed to have paid back to the organization, but never did.
Mortenson already weathered a serious bite to his credibility over his first book, Three Cups of Tea, after a 60 Minutes piece and Jon Krakauer e-book that outed it as partially made up just about a year ago. He later acknowledged "discrepancies" in Three Cups. Now the scandal, which Bullock says in his report was the impetus for the investigation, has taken a bite out of his wallet, too. Not sure which one must hurt more.