Myers University: Meet the Business School That Can't Do Business

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Myers President Richard Scaldini was optimistic about the school's fate in February. By May, he was scrounging for another handout.
The Plain Dealer reported over the weekend that Myers University, Cleveland's oldest business school, is on the verge of being sold. But considering the source, it may pay to remain a little skeptical. As Scene reported in February, Myers has been destined for oblivion since at least 2001, when it hired a brash and apparently brainless new president, Paul Feingold. Feingold proceed to run the school in the ground, buying, among other things, a catering business the school couldn't afford. In the summer of '02, the new president, we wrote:
... announced that Myers had bought the University Club, a ritzy joint operated out of a Euclid Avenue mansion. The club was in the heart of Millionaire's Row, a stretch of city long forgotten as an entertainment destination. But Feingold had big plans. He wanted an upgraded pub, a conference room, and a grand ballroom. He wanted a gazebo, a promenade, and a fountain. Offices would be renovated and used by the school's senior staff. Upstairs, he envisioned an apartment for himself. Downstairs, he saw a professional kitchen; that way, the school could open a catering business and a culinary institute. Renovation came with a hefty price tag of $10 million. But the mansion would help raise the school's visibility "by creating a true campus" that would attract more students and revenue, Feingold predicted. In the past, Myers had built its business by bringing the school to its customers. Inner-city students could take public transportation to Public Square. Suburban students could find a satellite near their neighborhood. And many classes could be taken online. Feingold wanted to remake the school as a traditional university in the heart of Cleveland's Midtown. Myers put its Prospect Avenue headquarters up for sale. It bought a shuttered bottled-water plant on Chester Avenue, right behind the mansion. And Feingold fixed his eyes on more property. Another Chester building could hold a new learning center. A vacant parking lot would be perfect for a $4 million field house and gym, with enough seating for 1,200 fans.
Those investments -- along with an attempt to start a sports program, a recruiting trip to China, and other blunders -- sent Myers into a financial tailspin. The school's board eventually caught on and brought in a new president, Dick Scaldini. And when I interviewed him in February, Scaldini was full of hope. The school had been bailed out by the county and some other generous donors, and Scaldini said things were looking up. But by May, the school was scrounging for money again, and now things were getting shadier. The school announced it had received an anonymous $2 million donation. But the donor, an investor in Virginia, was quickly outed by Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Eric Fingerhut, who found the secrecy odd at best. It turned out the donor had direct ties with University of Northern Virginia, a for-profit university that was interested in taking over Myers. In exchange for its donation, the school had been given controlling power of Myers' board of trustees. UNV seemed destined to take over or merge with Myers; Scaldini admitted so much in an interview with WCPN-90.3. But Fingerhut said this made the donation suspect, since the schools would have to jump through a slew of bureaucratic hoops before merging. "Both Fingerhut and Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann say they have found nothing wrong with the gift. But, Fingerhut says, they are watching closely to see if the two schools draw closer," WCPN's Dan Bobkoff reported. Fingerhut told the station, "Should it at any time become apparent that the University of Northern Virginia is running Myers University instead of Myers University operating the facility, then we'd have a problem." In the end, that won't be problem, because the university appears to have bailed on whatever deal it cut with UNV. After taking most of the $2 million and spending it on God knows what, Myers' board -- despite having fewer members than UNV -- somehow managed to kick the UNV members off the board, basically cutting ties with the folks who had saved their asses in the first place. Now Myers says it's ready to be sold to someone else. It won't say who the buyer is. Whoever it is better hope they've got everything in writing. -- Joe P. Tone

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