FloridaTrend.com, the Website for Florida Business

Barney Bishop Steps Down from Associated Industries

"I'm somebody that will say things that some other business execs might only be willing to think about."

— Barney Bishop
[Photo: Jason Morton]

After nearly six years heading one of the state's most powerful business lobbies, Barney Bishop announced in August that he will step down as president and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida at the end of this year.

Bishop says the decision was his, explaining in a press release that he examined his goals both at AIF and in his personal life following the 2011 legislative session. "I realized I had achieved my goals of rebuilding AIF and the organization was in a very good place. There are other things in life — other passions — that I wanted to pursue."

Several media reports speculated that his resignation came after some AIF board members grew upset with statements Bishop had made earlier this year. In June, the St. Petersburg Times alluded to a possible ouster of Bishop after he "butted heads" with the AIF board by calling for replacement of the entire board of state-run Citizens Property Insurance at a May press conference. The Palm Beach Post, meanwhile, reported that Bishop had caused a stir by declaring earlier this year that the "No. 1 job" of AIF's board is to defeat U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in 2012 — a position that may have unsettled some on the board.

In an interview with Florida Trend earlier this year, Bishop acknowledged that his outspokenness has occasionally ruffled feathers of AIF board members. "I'm somebody that will say things that some other business execs might only be willing to think about. I think that frankness is refreshing in a lot of instances. It can also cause trouble and angst. I've had my share of that."

But Bishop went on to say that such criticism is "illegitimate" because "this association cannot and should not ever be CEO-centric."

Erika Alba, chair of the AIF's board, praised Bishop for his "passion and unequaled round-the-clock effort to rebuild AIF" and pointed to his success with record dues and membership levels.

Indeed, the group's form 990 filings with the IRS show that AIF's dues income increased from $839,063 in 2008 to more than $1.1 million in 2009. The income from dues, however, still fell well below AIF's expenses, which totaled $4.2 million that year. Only some $4.9 million in "investment income" kept the group from being in the red for the year.

While AIF made a sizable chunk of money several years ago when it sold off insurance affiliate Associated Industries Insurance, Bishop told Trend the group's board had tried to avoid using that money for ongoing expenses. "When we sold the insurance company, we made millions, but neither the board nor I want to spend that money. We want that to be part of a reserve that will ensure AIF always exists."

Cecil Pearce, president of the Florida Insurance Council, will serve as interim managing director.

Bishop told Trend he will return to lobbying but will also serve as a consultant to AIF.