Huntsman CEO is BACK after family puts the U on notice

KSL – Dr. Mary Beckerle, the former Huntsman Cancer Institute director and CEO who was fired abruptly last week, was reinstated to her role effective immediately Tuesday.

So the Huntsman Cancer Insitute’s CEO is BACK. Consider this a week’s vacation I suppose. Although it likely wasn’t a very fun one for Beckerle.

Before we get into it, a little from last week:

Salt Lake Tribune – The already-public spat between the Huntsman family and University of Utah administrators broadened Friday, with Jon Huntsman Sr. calling for the U.’s top leader to be fired and the publication of a strongly worded advertisement on the controversy in Salt Lake City’s two daily newspapers.

The newspaper ad and other exchanges capped a tumultuous week for the state’s flagship university after the Monday afternoon firing of Beckerle, a top cancer researcher, from her post as institute CEO and director. Beckerle’s abrupt ouster was announced via email, and generated consecutive days of protests by U. faculty, staff, students and community members.

Top U. administrators have since declined to explain reasons for the firing, saying it is a confidential personnel matter.

I’ve been dying to blog this for the past week but we weren’t live yet. Now we are so I can get pounding away at the keyboard.Administrators with the University of Utah straight up fired the CEO of one of the top cancer treatment and research centers in the world. The world! How did the former CEO first find out? Through a system-wide email sent to staff. Talk about harsh. Donezo. Don’t stop at go. Head directly to jail. Buh-bye.

But the aftermath was only getting underway. When the Huntsman family learned of the firing, they started to fire back. Let’s not forget whose name is on the outside of the building here either.

Jon Huntsman Sr. told the Tribune there would be “many lawsuits” related to this “power grab by an unethical and dishonest Vivian Lee.” Lee is the seniorVice President of the U’s health sciences. I’m not sure what all that entails but she must be friends with someone up high if indeed Huntsman Sr.’s claims of the power grab were true. How else would one get the ball rolling on something like this?

Then came Huntsman’s money quote: “This was just a vicious, mean-spirited call by Vivian Lee, who is totally out of control, and by a president who doesn’t exercise any leadership whatsoever.

Huntsman just out here throwing haymakers.

Not only did he name Lee, but pulled president David Pershing into it. Then last Friday, he purchased a full-page ad in the Tribune and the Deseret News complete with bold letter and underlines. The man knows public relations unlike some others involved in this story. Nothing says don’t mess with me like a full-page ad, right? Right.

You gotta respect the move. If I’m the head of a family’s foundation that makes up one-third of the institute’s funding (this is fact-checked, no fake news here), you’re damn right I’m going to say something about it if I don’t like it.

It came down to a battle over autonomy of the institute, as Science Mag suggested.

The abrupt dismissal of the head of a Utah cancer center is causing backlash from its faculty—and its major philanthropic funder—in a struggle over the center’s autonomy from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

But now Beckerle is back so everything can return to normal. Seemingly. Pershing said Monday a new memorandum of understanding was being drafted to clarify the relationship between the institute and the university.

It probably includes something about not angering your biggest donors (an unwritten rule, of course). And hopefully something about how to avoid embarrassing results like this one. We can only hope.

What could have cleared this all up you might ask? If the university provided a reason for the firing. Sure, I can see some reasons for firing a CEO, mismanaging funds, fudging research, inappropriate relationships. But no reason was made public. Of course, there are rules so the administration claimed it couldn’t speak as to why. Maybe it wasn’t so bad hence her reinstatement.

As a result of the fiasco, we saw a little of everything. Including protests!

Don’t you think if you were going to fire a CEO, you’d want to check with your biggest donors? (looking at you, Pershing) That just seems like basic president-ing 101 to me. Not that presidents are in high regard to start with these days but I digress. Even athletics directors don’t want to piss off their donors.

Here’s one part from this past week pertaining to money:

Beckerle’s termination also came just as negotiations on a multimillion-dollar funding agreement between the Huntsman family’s foundation and the U. was being finalized, leaving the deal worth $130 million unsigned.

$130 million. Unsigned. Seems like a pretty big bargaining chip for the Huntsmans here. Seems like it might have helped. In the end, some things come down to money and a $130 million price tag.

Not a good look for Pershing and the U here. Damage control in full effect this week.

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