New U of L board chairman vows to get tough
There is a new sheriff in town at the University of Louisville, and the new chairman of its board of trustees Saturday left no doubt he intends to be a tough one.
Holding its first meeting since it was appointed Tuesday by Gov. Matt Bevin, U of L’s new board of trustees elected investor J. David Grissom as chairman over the genial ex-basketball star and businessman Ulysses “Junior” Bridgeman, who briefly chaired the board last summer.
Grissom, an attorney and former banker, wasted no time in denouncing the much-criticized U of L Foundation for not moving “very far” or “very fast” in cleaning up its act.
In one of the new board’s first official acts, it passed a resolution urging the foundation to refrain from making any settlements with employees until an outside forensic audit of its finances is completed.
Grissom also secured a pledge from the foundation’s executive director that it won’t invest in real estate until that investigation concludes, probably in May.
“Those are our assets and things there need to change,” Grissom said.
After more than an hour in executive session, Grissom announced the board had selected a new interim president, Dr. Greg Postel, to succeed Neville Pinto, who is leaving to become president of the University of Cincinnati.
Postel, the interim executive vice president for health affairs and a neuro-radiologist, said he is a physician first and probably isn’t interested in the appointment as president. But he predicted he could serve as interim for as long as a year and a half, which is how long he said it might be before the university picks a new president.
Grissom said the university must resolve issues such as its probation by its accreditation agency and the NCAA probe of its men’s basketball team before it will be able to attract top-flight candidates for the presidency. “We’ve got to score some wins first,” he said.
The first meeting
After his election by paper ballot, Grissom fended off suggestions from faculty representative Enid Trucios-Haynes, a law professor, to adopt a “less antagonistic” posture towards the foundation.
He withdrew proposed resolutions in which the trustees would have recommended that the foundation board, pending the completion of the forensic audit, refrain from entering new contracts or investments other than purchasing publicly traded stocks.
The foundation’s interim executive director, Keith Sherman, said those restrictions could hamstring the foundation in routine management of the endowment.
But Grissom extracted a promise from Sherman to recommend that the foundation pass on new real-estate investments, noting that is considering sinking money into an 11-story building without lining up any tenants in advance.
“That is financial suicide,” Grissom, a former executive at Humana Inc. and CEO of citizens Fidelity Bank, and now chairman of Mayfair Capital, said.
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Grissom also announced that he, with an outside law firm, is personally supervising the forensic audit of the foundation by Alvarez & Marsal to ensure it gets all the records it needs and that there is no interference in the investigation by the foundation.
He said he wants to make sure that its report has “credibility and believeability” when it is completed.
The board opened its first session by selecting Grissom over Bridgeman by a vote that wasn’t disclosed.
It selected John Schnatter, the Papa John’s CEO and founder, as vice chairman.
Bridgeman served as chairman of the board after Bevin abolished the existing board last June and named one whose members he picked himself. A judge later found the governor had acted illegally and restrained the new board from meeting, but a bill passed earlier this month authorized Bevin to select a new board again.
Grissom and Schnatter will serve on a temporary basis until the board holds its first annual meeting later this year.
Grissom also appointed four trustees to serve on the foundation’s board – Diane Medley, Schnatter, businessman Nitin Sahney and himself. They replaced former trustees Brucie Moore, Larry Benz, Craig Greenberg and Jon Blue, who lost their positions when Bevin earlier this week named a new board of trustees. Moore had been chair of the foundation.
Benz, the former board of trustees chair, along with Greenberg and Blue, had urged the ouster of James Ramsey as university and foundation president. Ramsey was forced to resign from the former post last summer. Pinto was named interim president.
Benz called the foundation a “public eyesore” because of its secrecy and the huge compensation packages it approved for Ramsey, Smith and others.
New interim leader
Postel, who has worked at the university for 23 years, said he was humbled and overwhelmed by the appointment.
He said his first priorities are getting U of L off probation – he said he is confident that the Southern Association of Colleges and Universities, which sanctioned the university in part because of improper external influence by Bevin, will do that.
Postel said he also wants to make sure that the university’s finances are sound. News outlets have reported that the foundation has spent money from the endowment, which it manages, at an unsustainable rate.
Postel came to U of L from the Mayo Clinic and later was named chairman of the radiology department.
He became interim executive vice president for health sciences when the university suspended with pay Dr. David Dunn after The Courier-Journal disclosed he was being investigated by the FBI for allegedly using grant money for non-university purposes. Dunn, who denied wrongdoing, left U of L last month as a tenured professor in good standing after the university paid him $1.15 million.
Reporter Andrew Wolfson can be reached at (502) 582-7189 or firstname.lastname@example.org