On Campus

Rogers and Ryerson

As you’ve heard, Ted Rogers recently put down $15 million towards the renaming of the Ryerson business school. And as you’ll read if you continue reading the above linked-to story, our own Joey Coleman thinks that Rogers (the man who runs the company that owns Maclean’s) cut a pretty good deal — and that Ryerson walked away from the table with less than it should have.

Me, I’m not so sure.

Joey’s argument is that if the U of Ottawa school of business can get $25 million to rename itself the Telfer School of Business, then surely Ryerson biz school – a huge undergraduate faculty, a new MBA program, and a Bay Street location – should have been able to hold out for more.

I would have agreed with Joey, until I spent some time recently with a business school dean whose school is still in the hunt for a sponsor. As he pointed out, the up-front amount matters, but the relationship – and the possibility of continued support – matters more. For example, Seymour Schulich was able to put his name on York’s erstwhile business school a decade ago, for “only” $15 million. However, Schulich has since made additional donations and offered all kinds of support to the institution. This has not been anything like a one-time bequest. But according to my interlocutor, the Asper family donation to the University of Manitoba biz school ($10 million back in 2000), on the other hand, has not included the same financial follow up. It was a generous bequest up front, no doubt about it, but apparently it hasn’t resulted in the same kind of ongoing cash boosts.

The moral, says this business school dean, is that you’re not just selling the name, taking the money, and walking away. Ideally, a biz school is not looking for a one-time transaction. It is looking for (however cliché it sounds) a relationship. So Ryerson – and Rogers – may be thinking long term. I guess time will tell.