Keep Papa John under control at UofL board meetings

John Schnatter went a couple of hours without saying a word, at least during the public portion of the University of Louisville Board of Trustees meeting this week. Not easy for someone accustomed to being treated as near royalty in his hometown. 

And it was quite a contrast from a week before when he exhibited little self control, ranting about the UofL athletic department and another expansion of Cardinal Stadium. 

One wonders why Schnatter had reason to be upset? The athletic department has bent over backward to keep the Pizza magnet happy. Setting aside a special place for him to land his helicopter during football games at Cardinal Stadium. Allowing him to race his 1971 Camaro into the complex, wheels spinning, burning rubber. The football program also allowing him to completely cover the roof of the Brown & Williamson Club with the Papa John’s logo.

Interim President Greg Postel and Chairman David Grisson have their hands full already, even without John Schnatter’s antics.

Schnatter’s demeanor during the recent board meeting makes one suspect that someone may have finally denied him one of his outlandish wishes. Some sources believe his antagonism could date back to the second phase of the stadium expansion, possibly some special concessions on the party deck. 

Schnatter’s humility apparently knows no bounds. Would anyone be surprised if his next big request had been a sculpture of Papa John on the party deck? Making a special delivery no doubt. Not out of the question. He lives in a virtual castle and he referred to the football facility as “My stadium” during the board meeting. 

The strained look on his face during the trustees’ meeting made it appear as though he had been asked to remain quiet. This at a time when the University of Louisville is in need of positive reinforcement and constructive leadership. Had to really difficult for him to hear Interim President Greg Postel described Tom Jurich’s great success with the athletic program and assurance that the stadium expansion in on time and well within budget.

Someone had obviously gotten to Schnatter, letting him know that his ranting was out of line, making him look foolish, embarrassing his fellow board members. This coming a day before it was announced that Schnatter had resigned from the board of the UofL Athletic Association and had been immediately replaced by university trustee James Rogers.

A long-time member of the University community, who wishes to remain unnamed, sees the fine hand of Trustees’ Chairman J. David Grissom at work in Schnatter’s resignation.

“It is not Schnatter’s style to resign for the good of the organization,” said the source. “My guess is that Grissom took him off the board because Schnatter is unpredictable in his rhetoric. Why else would another board appointment be made so quickly?

“This may have been one reason for the closed session at the Trustees’ meeting. Grissom does not want the wrath of Tom Jurich’s many supporters. Running Tom off would be the biggest mistake made by anyone. 

“Grissom also will not tolerate any trustee speaking to the media without his approval. Remember Schnatter’s parting comment on Wednesday, words to the effect that Grissom has it under control.”

Presumably that means Grissom will not tolerate any misdirection or outbursts at future Trustee meetings, especially from John Schnatter. 

Schnatter comments embarrass UofL and Papa John’s

John Schnatter talking nonsense at University of Louisville board meeting.

John Schnatter didn’t do anyone any favors with his off-the-wall statements during the University of Louisville board of trustees’ meeting on Wednesday. Least of all himself and the business he founded.

The usually affable spokesperson for Papa John’s comes off looking like a jerk and sounding like a dolt, casting unfounded aspersions toward the UofL athletic department. He also seems to have a short memory, having been one of the most generous supporters of the stadium that bears his company’s name.

Somehow Schnatter got the notion that the UofL athletic department is being mismanaged, and that the expansion of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium is an example of bad leadership under Tom Jurich. Nevermind that athletic department is probably the most successful part of the university or that Jurich is widely regarded as one of the most effective athletic directors around. The UofL department is self-sufficient, one of the best-funded in the nation, and more than $45 million has been raised from corporate donors for the $50-plus million stadium expansion.

Yet here’s Schnatter saying, “”Until you fix athletics, you cannot fix this university. You have to fix the athletics first. I have looked at this eight ways to Sunday. You have to fix athletics first, and then the university will get in line.”

There was an issue with the basketball program and it has been addressed by the university, and more punishment will be forthcoming from the NCAA. But other than that, Schnatter’s comments make no sense. This board of trustees should be able to recognize that the athletic department is a shining example of what can happen for the entire university under the right leadership.

One suspects that Schnatter may have been unduly influenced by comments from Interim President Greg Postel during a previous meeting. Postel allegedly told Schnatter that Jurich was “invisible,” not answering to the UofL board of trustees. 

That makes no sense because Tom Jurich has always gone overboard to be open with all segments of the community, including the university. This explains in part why the athletic department has been transformed under his leadership.

Postel’s assertion is typical of university politics, with one segment being envious of a more successful unit. Happens all the time on university campuses. Maybe Postel’s real agenda is to get a piece of some of the money that the athletic program is so good at generating.

Postel, no doubt, did not expect Schnatter to quote him. If there was any possibility of Postel receiving serious consideration for the President’s job, he can forget about that possibility after Wednesday’s board meeting. He can thank John Schnatter for going off the deep end, stripping Postel of his anonymity. 

Schnatter can expect Papa John’s Pizza to take a hit in Louisville, with some fans voicing support for a boycott on local message boards on Thursday. So many choices of pizza, so easy to narrow them down.

Maybe Wednesday was just a bad day for John Schnatter, and in the future, he and Tom Jurich will some day chuckle about the episode. But first Schnatter has a lot of explaining to do. His bizarre comments had nothing to do with reality.

Courier-Journal covers UofL and UK equally in sports, but hard news is another story

A few random thoughts about the Courier-Journal’s coverage of University of Louisville issues …

In case you missed it, Joe Gerth has a new column in the Courier-Journal, switching from political to a generalist approach, taking on the hot topics in town. He’s working hard in his new role as the newspaper’s “resident expert” on everything Louisville.

Not surprising a few weeks ago he became the latest CJ scribe to pile on former University of Louisville President Jim Ramsey, stating  that Ramsey “enriched himself at the expense of the students at UofL and the state of Kentucky.” He also questions the motivations of Tom Jurich in the same piece.

Gerth grew up in Louisville and graduated from the University of Louisville, majoring in communications. For someone who has covered politics for almost three decades, it is somewhat surprising that he has failed to acknowledge issues stemming from gubernatorial political appointments to the UofL Board of Trustees.

Or maybe it’s just that he chooses to ignore them. That would be the easier path for a writer at a publication that fancies itself to be a statewide newspaper. The CJ’s News side provides tons of coverage on UofL problems but only a bare minimum, usually wire coverage, on University of Kentucky issues — totally opposite to Sports coverage where equal coverage seems the goal.

Continue reading “Courier-Journal covers UofL and UK equally in sports, but hard news is another story”

Handmaker provides insight into Jim Ramsey’s compensation at UofL

Jim Ramsey and Junior Bridgeman during one of Ramsey’s final board meetings at UofL.

Somewhere in Florida, Jim Ramsey is catching up on his golf game, hopefully recovering from some of the controversy that surrounded his departure as President of the University of Louisville last year.

As she resigned, Margaret Handmaker provided some facts on issues affecting UofL’s efforts to fend off attempts by a competitor university to recruit Jim Ramsey away from Louisville.

Some additional perspective on Ramsey’s compensation at UofL was recently provided by Margaret Handmaker when she submitted her resignation from the UofL Foundation to Diane Medley, the new Chairman of the Foundation.

Ramsey was sharply criticized by some former members of the University Board of Trustees for what some believed was excessive remuneration. The annual compensation in his IRS returns between 2012 and 2014 was confusing because his reported income apparently included deferred payments.

The criticism, not surprisingly, came from Trustees who were not around when the University Board in 2005 adopted a Deferred Compensation Plan — a practice employed by universities to attract and retain key leaders through competitive levels of total compensation and deferred vesting.

Diane Medley recently assumed the chairmanship of the UofL Foundation. She’s also a member of the UofL Board of Trustees.

In her letter of resignation,Handmaker noted that the UofL Foundation would “be faced with a significant shortage of institutional memory” moving forward with a new Interim Executive Director, all new University Trustees, and all new UofL Foundation board members.

She also noted that “as with other complex boards, the  University relies on a committee structure to report information to the full board. Any suggestion that Trustees do not know what is going on at the Foundation is not well informed.”

She attached a memo in which she stated:

— “President Ramsey was recruited by the University of Tennessee, and the UofL Trustees felt strongly that they wanted to do “whatever it took” to keep him at the University of Louisville.

— “In discussions with President Ramsey, the Chair of the Trustees learned that the President did not want a higher salary, but a supplemental retirement benefit would be attractive to him.

— “Once again, the Trustees asked the Foundation to pay this benefit.

— “The same person chaired both the Board of Trustees and the Foundation Board (as was often the case), so the “ask” was a bit of a formality. The grant and the ultimate payout of the retention plan was reported in the Foundation’s IRS Form 990, which is available to the members of all boards and to the public.”

Kathleen Smith was a key member of Ramsey’s staff at the University while also overseeing Foundation activities.

Ramsey also came under attack for retention bonuses for some of his staff, including Kathleen Smith, who served his chief of staff at the University and for the UofL Foundation.

Handmaker notes in her memo that “when (the late) Chester Porter was chair of both boards, he said that it was critically important to discourage Kathleen Smith from electing early retirement. A retention plan for Kathleen was designed by Chester and implemented by the Foundation.” Smith was placed on paid leave last fall.

Handmaker was among four directors who resigned from a group that also included Dr. Salem George, Joyce Hagen, and Dr. William Selvidge. 

They were around when Jim Ramsey was in the midst of transforming the University from a commuter school to a member in full standing in the Atlantic Coast Conference, significant improvements in the GPA average of incoming freshmen and higher graduation rates, unprecedented growth in the University’s endowment, unparalleled growth of the physical campus and a boom in student housing.

They saw the best of times under Jim Ramsey and, in recent months, some of the most challenging days ever for UofL. 

Junior Bridgeman and company return to University of Louisville


Junior Bridgeman, who has chaired both the University of Louisville board of trustees and the UofL Foundation board is back at UofL again, thanks to Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin.

Bridgeman is among the 10 individuals named Tuesday to replace a board that lacked political and diversity balance, was unable to conduct a presidential search, and was considered dysfunctional by many. Nine of the 10 appointees are the same as the Governor announced last July., with the exception of James M. Rogers who replaced Dale Bolden on the list.

A UofL spokesman indicated that the newly appointed board will appoint an interim president soon to replace Neville Pinto, who accepted the presidency at the University of Cincinnati. Thumbnails:

David Grissom

David Grissom — Obtained his law degree from UofL, has long been among the power brokers in Louisville, having served as chairman and CEO of Citizens Fidelity Bank & Trust, vice president of PNC Corporation, and executive vice president of Humana.

Name any leading company or institution in the region and there’s a good chance Grissom has served on the board, including Churchill Downs, LG&E, Yum! Brands, and Centre College (where he earned his undergraduate degree). He currently manages the Glenview Trust Company, the largest independent trust company in Kentucky.

John Schnatter a long-time donor.
John Schnatter

John Schnatter— The founder and CEO of Papa John’s Pizza and a major benefactor for Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. His name is also on the John H. Schnatter Center for Free Enterprise at the U of L College of Business.

Schnatter is a graduate of Ball State, but his wife Annette and grandfather Louis Ackerson are UofL alumni. His brother Chuck, daughter Kristine and two uncles are all graduates of the Brandeis School of Law.

Sandra Frazier from a family of strong UofL supporters
Sandra Frazier 

Sandra Frazier — Comes from an old Louisville family that has been very generous to UofL for decades. Her father was the late Harry Frazier and her grandmother was Mary Frazier, a legendary benefactor. Her uncle was none other than the late Owsley B. Frazier, who gave $25 million to UofL shortly before he passed in 2012. She owns Tandem Communications and serves with Grissom on the Glenview Trust board. She earned an undergraduate degree from Hollins University and a master’s degree in mass communications from Boston University.

Brian Cromer

Brian Cromer – A senior attorney at Stites & Harbison in Louisville, with experience in corporate governance and financial transactions, venture capital and private equity investments, and other corporate practice and business matters. He has degrees from Bellarmine and Kentucky.

Nitin Sahney

Nitin Sahney — Former President and Chief Executive Officer of Omnicare, Inc., and has served as President, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of RxCrossroads. Vast experience in the healthcare field which should be helpful with University Hospital challenges. He’s a graduate of Punjab University in Chandigarh, India.

James Rogers

James Rogers — Retired Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President of Hilliard Lyons Research Advisors, as well as Investment Advisor of The RBB Fund, Inc. and the Senbanc Fund.  He is a graduate of the University of Louisville. 

Bonita Black

Bonita Black — Manages Steptoe & Johnson’s Louisville office, focusing on corporate law, including mergers and acquisitions and divestitures, and corporate, structured, and municipal finance law.  Previously worked with Frost Brown & Todd and LG&E. She obtained her law degree from Harvard and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky.

Dr. Ron Wright

Dr. Ron Wright — An obstetrician-gynecologist in Jeffersonville. He is affiliated with Clark Memorial Hospital. He received his medical degree from University of Louisville School of Medicine. Worked with Bridgeman and Black on the UofL transition team.

Diane Medley

Diane Medley — A native of Meade County, earning her degree in commerce from UofL. She co-founded Chilton & Medley Accounting in 1988 and Mountjoy Chilton Medley LLP in 2010. Today the firm is the 82nd largest financial services firm in the US She is currently the only female managing partner in the top 100 accounting firms in the US.