Administrator reverses course, stays at OSU

Geoff Chatas had said he was leaving to work for the school’s parking vendor.

As students and their families struggle to keep up with the costs of a university education, the Dayton Daily News has closely examined issues related to college affordability. For past stories on the compensation packages of Ohio State’s top administrators, including Chief Financial Officer Geoff Chatas, see mydaytondailynews.com.

In a surprise reversal, Ohio State University announced that it struck a deal to keep Chief Financial Officer Geoff Chatas, who just last month said that he was leaving to work for the international asset management company that OSU hired to operate its 35,000 parking spaces.

Ohio State said late Thursday that Chatas would remain at the university as senior vice president and CFO.

“Geoff has a deep commitment and passion for Ohio State. As he and I continued our discussions on the many opportunities to fulfill the vision of affordability, access and excellence, it became clear that his continued involvement would help us to move more quickly and efficiently toward the future we envision,” OSU President Michael Drake said in a written statement. “Ohio State is already a national leader on these issues, but the next five years could be transformational as we work to reduce what families pay for college while investing in academic excellence.”

The university said Chatas’ new contract will carry the same financial terms as his previous deal.

Chatas’ base salary last year was $684,503 and he also received a $50,289 bonus. He was paid $1.08 million in deferred compensation this year because he stayed in the job for five years, according to the terms of his previous contract.

Chatas’ compensation package was outlined in a story in Thursday’s Dayton Daily News.

On March 18, the university announced that Chatas was leaving to lead QIC’s infrastructure business in North America and manage a new fund. Based in Australia, QIC teamed with LAZ Parking in 2012 to sign a 50-year lease of OSU’s parking lots and garages on central campus in exchange for $483 million in up front cash.

The university invested the cash and has used $62 million of it to fund scholarships, hire new faculty, invest in the arts and pay for on-campus bus service. But OSU gave up control and revenue associated with the parking spaces for 50 years.

Chatas’ announcement that he’d be working for the parking vendor raised eyebrows and led some to call for an ethics investigation. Ohio Ethics Commission Executive Director Paul Nick said he had not received a request from Chatas or on his behalf for ethics advice.

On Feb. 10, Gov. John Kasich announced that Chatas would head up a statewide task force on college affordability and efficiency. Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said “We have nothing to announce” when asked if Chatas would continue in that role now that he’s staying at OSU.

In a written statement, Chatas said, “Ohio State students deserve the best education, but we can’t provide that education on the back of student debt. I want to find creative solutions to the challenges facing higher education.”

Chatas is praised as the financial wizard behind other long-lasting deals that Ohio State has executed:

Oct 2011: OSU issued a “century bond” for $500 million at 4.8 percent annual interest. The principal must be paid in 2111. The cash is earmarked for capital projects.

Feb 2012: Huntington Bank signed a 15-year $25 million contract with OSU to be the official bank on campus, giving Huntington the exclusive right to put branch offices and ATMs across campus and make pitches to students and faculty. Huntington promised to also loan out $100 million for economic development projects near campus.

July 2013: OSU invested $50 million with Drive Capital, a venture capital fund co-founded by Gov. John Kasich’s close friend Mark Kvamme. OSU’s investment team raised a dozen concerns about the new, untested fund but Chatas moved ahead with the deal.

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