Blog Entry

Missouri's fearless leader

Posted on: May 14, 2010 12:59 pm

I come to this post biased. I hate Sprint. It is to the cell phone industry what Ryan Seacrest is to MENSA.

A non-factor.

I live in the city (Overland Park, Kan.) of  Sprint's world headquarters, the embattled cell service provider. OK, so that' s not the official description of business but who cares?  Sprint doesn't know exactly what it does, why should I?

You might have noticed the company's slick commercials currently airing. They're meant to be the televised equivalent of Muzak in a doctor's office, to calm everyone's nerves. Sprint, you see, is in the dumper. Its stock has tanked. It has laid off thousands in my town (greater Kansas City), ripping the economic and emotional soul out of a large part of the metro area.

Yeah, I hate Sprint. Annoyance turned into genuine dislike a few years ago when I realized I was getting better cell service out of town than in Kansas City -- home of the world headquarters! Goodbye Sprint, hello T-Mobile.

Sprint is a badly run business with bad customer service. Yet it keeps trying to swim upstream in an industry that continues to pass it by. It is a salmon in its final death throes. The difference being Sprint has no eggs to lay. If perception is reality than Sprint is barren.

All this is meant to introduce you to Gary Forsee, the University of Missouri's current system president. If you're familiar with the Missouri-to-the-Big-Ten chatter, then you should also realize that Forsee could buy the Big Ten. That's what working for Sprint does for you.

You see, Forsee has done a lot of falling upward lately. In 2007, left as Sprint's CEO and took over as Missouri president in early 2008. That's the nice way to put it. Here's how the Kansas City Star described his departure.

Under mounting pressure from disgruntled investors and Sprint’s board of directors, Forsee resigned as the company’s chairman and CEO in October [2007] ... Sprint shares have dropped by nearly 65 percent.

If things don't go well in the future for Missouri, you have been warned. Sprint's board of directors apparently was so grateful for Forsee's resignation that it awarded him a $40 million severance package. Part of that deal includes $84,325 a month for the rest of his life.

Whether the University of Missouri goes bankrupt or the football team wins the Rose Bowl, the school's president gets $1 million a year just for sitting around. That doesn't count his $400,000 salary from Missouri (before a possible $100,000 in incentives per year). If you have been outraged by overcompensated CEOs, this is the time to officially throw up in your mouth a little. 

All this would be somewhat digestible if Forsee had a smidge of an educational background. The man has spent 35 years in telecommunications. He has a bachelor's degree from Missouri-Rolla. The school awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2005, apparently because of his success at Sprint.

Other than that, someone please help me figure out how the CEO of a university doesn't have much of an educational background. Ah, but he does have a lot of money and no matter what happens with Missouri at least one guy is going to have hit the jackpot.

All this is doubly important because Forsee was among those Missouri officials who met with the Kansas City Sports Commission on Thursday. The meeting was set up to feel out Missouri on its future intentions. Its departure from the Big 12 would undercut the commission's ability to bid on the Big 12 basketball tournament and Big 12 football championship going forward. Kansas City is essentially the center of the Big 12. It is within easy driving distance of almost half of the league's teams. It has hosted several conference championship events in the Big 12's 14-year history.

Maybe the commission needed to ask more pointed questions. Maybe it's not so much about how long Missouri is going to be with the Big 12, given his track record, how long is Forsee going to be around Missouri?  And in what shape is he going to leave it?

Category: NCAAF
Tags: Missouri

Since: May 15, 2010
Posted on: May 15, 2010 2:10 pm

Missouri's fearless leader

Great perspective.  I am not a sports fan; I am, however, deeply involved in the customer service industry.  I think your points regarding Forsee, and how he handled Sprint, are indicative that no matter where he goes, people better watch out.  Makes you wonder why, even in this economic environment, we still keep giving these people jobs.

Since: Nov 24, 2008
Posted on: May 14, 2010 6:02 pm

Missouri's fearless leader

Ok, that was a naseating read, I certainly mean regarding the message - not the messenger.  I've been reading a lot of articles from the St. Louis area regarding Mizzou's possible move to the Big Ten and while I'm a definite novice regarding college sports, I've been enjoying the relative success of the Tigers basketball and football teams.  Hopefully Forsee will continue to for Mizzou for he did for Sprint - nothing.  Meaning, hopefully he stays out of the way and let's smarter men do the decision-making.

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