UO Foundation spends $43M to buy Portland White Stag building + sign

Updated with video below. Jon Bell has the report in the Portland Business Journal, here:

… The building was purchased through an entity called OFX White Stag LLC, whose registered agents include Paul Weinhold, president of the U of O Foundation, Erika Funk, COO of the foundation and Wendy Lee Laing, general counsel for the foundation. A call to Victoria Nguyen, public affairs and communications manager for the foundation, was not immediately returned.
However, Kelly said he sees the university’s purchase of the property as a sign of its long-term plans.

“I think it’s just a reaffirmation of their commitment to the Portland area and the market,” he said. “I expect that they’re looking to continue to expand their presence here, and I know they will be great stewards of the property.”

Are UO’s Portland programs a good strategic investment for the university’s new focus on AAU level research and faculty? Some links are here, but my impression is that it’s a very mixed bag.

And did we ever get the donations that Board Chair Chuck Lillis was sure would come through for the Sports Product Design programs, or are we still subsidizing it from the general fund? Diane Dietz in the RG, December 12 2014:

… Lillis, however, wasn’t prepared to let the subject of efficiency drop. His friend, retired UO business professor Roger Best, worked at General Electric when Lillis was an executive there, he said.

“He was a world class business school professor,” Lillis said. “In the ’80s he routinely turned down $10,000-a-day as a consultant. He was the executive of a big British firm when he lived in Eugene and he commuted on the Concorde. He has started two businesses and sold them both — and is a very large donor to the university,” Lillis said.

If the university is not going to trust someone like that, Lillis said, who will it trust. “We have this, like, superstar. …

Best was “beyond frustrated” by university processes, Lillis said.

The board’s Academic and Student Affairs Committee this week examined the hoops that Best had to clear to get the sports management degree approved. The program went through the standard review cycle, which includes approvals from the department, the college, the Graduate Council, the University Senate and the Board of Trustees.

“The process was onerous,” Best told the committee, “It probably has to be that way. Some of it improved our product as well. I can’t say it was all bad.”

The biggest problem, he said, was scheduling. He would have to wait to get on the agenda of the various committees.

Board member Kurt Willcox, however, examined the timetable and found “the clog appeared to be right at the beginning within the department,” he said. That phase lasted almost two years.

The rest of the approvals took only seven months. “When you’re looking to develop a brand new program, April to December doesn’t look like a huge time line,” Willcox said.

Barbara Altmann, vice provost for academic affairs, said the various committees gauge the soundness and coherence of proposed programs and ensure that the proposers have a stable line up of courses to guarantee quality for students who pay a lot, especially for business graduate degrees.

“It sounds like I was just incorrect,” Lillis said, adding “I still think (efficiency is) a noteworthy objective.”

Best said he did hit a snag at the start of the process: “The business school was questioning this program. It was felt it would be sucking off resources that would be going to Portland. … It took us a year to convince the marketing department and the management department, the master’s committee, the college.” …

And for the nostalgic, here’s UO’s former interim Provost Jim Bean in 2009, asking the UO faculty to take unpaid furloughs while denying news accounts that UO was willing to pay $1M to buy the “White Stag”  sign and change it to say “University of Oregon”, and put a neon “O” on the watertower. One of the many WWeek stories on this bizarre episode is here. Not clear if UO ever paid the $100K for design work and permitting fees.

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FWIW the Johnson Hall hypocrisy and smugness at this meeting was the reason I started this blog. That and the General Counsel’s use of fees and delays to hide public records from the public.

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12 Responses to UO Foundation spends $43M to buy Portland White Stag building + sign

  1. Backstory says:

    The Foundation doesn’t like being told what it can or cannot do, and will often take extreme measures (like bidding on the EWEB waterfront property, or offering unlimited funds to support some track meet) to prove a point. When Portland said that UO can’t put a gigantic “O” in the middle of the white stag sign, they just bought the damn building.

    • just different says:

      I believe the sign still belongs to the City of Portland, as it has since 2010. I would hope that the Foundation isn’t so narcissistic and tone-deaf that they would make another bid to use the sign for yet more “O” advertising, which is already all over Portland. Absolutely nobody but them thought trashing the sign was anything other than a horrible idea.

  2. Observer says:

    But what does that mean, “branding” and “good PR”? What does it get the university? What does that translate into? More funding? More applicants? Higher-quality applicants? More donors? More likelihood of retaining AAU status? Forty-three million dollars’ worth of those things? How would that work?

    What the university needs is more funding for students, more money to pay professors close to average salaries so it can retain and get good faculty, more support for research, and an administration that is honest, above board, and on top of things, so we can stop having scandals about sexual assault, football, and law enforcement. I don’t see how $43 million for the White Stag building advances any of those things.

    • just different says:

      White Stag won’t help clean out Johnson Hall, but everything else you mentioned involves getting more money into the university on the academic side, which means getting donors and voters excited about UO academically.

      The Portland programs *sound* innovative and exciting, and White Stag is a much better venue to show them off rather than housing them way down the back end of the Willamette. Fundraising is 95% image and salesmanship (not to say bullshit). I have no idea whether $43M is a good price for that, but UO absolutely did the right thing by securing a football-free foothold in Portland.

  3. just different says:

    I see the White Stag purchase as more “branding,” except that it might be more effective than rules about what kind of stationery you can use and less ethically fraught than D-1 ball. A presence in a charismatic Portland landmark is good PR even if the programs housed there don’t pull their weight at the bursar.

  4. Academics first says:

    The money did come. It was reported two or three weeks ago that Robin and Roger Best gave $1 million to an endowment for the PhD Program at the Business School. This follows a successful trial to stimulate increased PhD research with incentives, So our core academics.

  5. Academics first says:

    FYI it was widely reported last week that Roger & Robin Best have given a $1 million endowment to support the PhD Program at the Business School. So yes, it did come, but not to sports products.

  6. uomatters says:

    To Dumpster Fire: I try to delete all posts that make fun of someone’s name. Please resubmit.

    Bill “Hardballs”

  7. searchlight says:

    Bleugene is kinda dull. Move the entire school to P-town.

  8. Dog says:

    Well at least that’s a hard number for some quick pay back costs

    1. How much extra tuition dollars does White Stag produce and how many years of those does it take to pay back the 43 M (or 43M plus annual costs)

    2. How has this facility in PDX impacted donor giving to the UO?

    3. Has this facility and its associated “research” generated 43M of ICC money yet?

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