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University Deluxe

Love is, indeed, fickle.

Between April, when Dan Goldin first emerged from nowhere as John Silber's personal pick to lead Boston University, and July, when Goldin was chosen for the job, Silber and his board -- with one notable exception, John Hancock chief executive David D'Alessandro -- fell head over heels in love with the man who sat atop America's space program for nearly a decade. How in love? Let us count the ways.

According to a term sheet negotiated with Goldin (I use the word "negotiated" loosely), BU offered a five-year contract with a five-year extension. Annual pay: $750,000 with potential increases as agreed to by the board. In addition, Goldin would accrue one year in sabbatical leave for every five years in office, worth another $1.5 million over 10 years. That's just the beginning. The term sheet provides "transitional" payments of $100,000, another $25,000 for legal fees, a faculty appointment as a professor of management, participation in the university's long-term savings plan starting at $14,000 a year and increasing to $20,000.

And on it goes: A retirement plan worth slightly more than $1 million, disability coverage of up to $25,000 a month, life insurance valued at three times his annual pay, a commitment to pay his government health insurance plan. There are vacation, sick pay, tuition reimbursement, dental, and holiday pay. There is the BU house, furnished, with staff, an office and office equipment, and a $10 million limit on homeowners insurance. He gets a car, insurance, maintenance, fuel, driver, free parking, cell phone, and "other electronic equipment." There are relocation costs from California and Washington, D.C., and temporary housing. The university agreed to pay the carrying costs of Goldin's Washington home for one year. There is travel and entertainment reimbursement, and first-class accommodations for Goldin and his wife. And $10,000 a year in financial planning advice, and reimbursement for two club memberships. Did I forget anything?

This begins to give you an idea of just what John Silber's little spring fling with Dan Goldin will cost BU. But it is only the start to understanding the cost of finally extracting Silber from the university he did so much to build. The clown show of the last week is just the finale of a circus that has been playing out in BU's boardroom for 2 1/2 years. For more than a year trustees, led by chairman Richard DeWolfe, plotted to get rid of BU president Jon Westling, officially putting Silber back on top. Then Silber and his gang got rid of DeWolfe. Now it is about Goldin.

This is not a place that can afford such foolishness. Silber, as ever, has set BU on an ambitious building plan. But the university is leveraged to its eyeballs, and its modest endowment has underperformed badly. So far, all the wrong directors -- people such as D'Alessandro, DreamWorks' Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Ringling Bros.' Kenneth Feld -- have left while Silber toadies like Earle Cooley and Jim Howell are (for the moment) still there. None of this will help alumni giving.

This remains University Deluxe, a place where executives' salaries and their grand BU homes, if not their resumes, always dwarfed those backwater competitors on the other side of the river. Example: Last spring, even before Goldin showed up and scared the pants off everyone, the board approved severance agreements for about a dozen top BU executives including Joseph Mercurio, executive vice president, and Kenneth Condon, chief financial officer. The packages provide the chosen ones three years' compensation if they are fired, according to a person who has seen the agreements.

An 18th century English playwright, William Congreve, said it best : "Married in haste, we may repent at leisure."

Steve Bailey is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at 617-929-2902 or at

Daniel S. Goldin Daniel S. Goldin
Aram Chobanian Aram Chobanian (Courtesy BU)
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