SOM still short on funds

Construction continues at the site of the new School of Management campus. The project is set to finish in 2013.
Construction continues at the site of the new School of Management campus. The project is set to finish in 2013. Photo by Paul Cohen.

The ambitious new building planned by the Yale School of Management aims to usher the school into the nation’s top echelon of business programs. But to make the state-of-the-art building a reality, SOM Dean Sharon Oster still needs to raise nearly half the project’s funds, and she has less than one year to do it.

Now, instead of paying for the building with donations as originally intended, SOM officials may begin construction on the strength of millions of dollars in borrowed funds. The structure, designed by Lord Norman Foster ARC ’62, is slated to cost close to $189 million, Oster said in an interview Tuesday. The school was originally meant to be entirely gift-funded, but with only about $90 million raised and the Yale Tomorrow fundraising campaign set to end next summer, Oster said she is considering borrowing up to $65 million to finance the construction.

A visualization of Lord Norman Foster’s ARC ’62 sleek plans for the new School of Management campus.
A visualization of Lord Norman Foster’s ARC ’62 sleek plans for the new School of Management campus.
A visualization of Lord Norman Foster’s ARC ’62 sleek plans for the new School of Management campus.
A visualization of Lord Norman Foster’s ARC ’62 sleek plans for the new School of Management campus.
Timeline of the the School of Management campus
Timeline of the the School of Management campus

Yale often sells bonds to pay for capital construction projects, a solution University officials have turned to more and more often as they struggle to finance projects that stalled in the wake of Yale’s 24.6 percent endowment loss last year.

The SOM’s new campus, on Whitney Avenue and Sachem Street, has been caught between Yale’s budget gap and the business school’s ambitions. Yale officials are counting on the combination of the new building and a highly regarded new dean to launch the SOM into the top tier of American business schools.

While the officers managed to recruit a new dean — former University of Chicago Booth School of Business dean Edward Snyder — who is set to arrive at Yale next year, the school’s new building has lagged with the slow pace of fundraising. Administrators said opening the SOM’s new campus by fall 2013 has become a top priority. (The 246,000-square-foot complex was originally slated to open in the fall of 2012, but was pushed back because of delays in the design and planning phases.)

“We want to get that building up,” Provost Peter Salovey said in an interview last week. “The future of our School of Management really depends on the fact that that building will allow us to teach the curriculum.”

He added: “We just can’t do it without the building.”

The building — whose site plans were approved by the Board of Alderman in May, giving the green light for construction to begin — is designed to accommodate more students, Oster said, and will help professors teach more collaboratively.

Along with the Yale Biology Building and the new residential colleges, the SOM has been a major focus of the University’s $3.5 billion Yale Tomorrow fundraising campaign, Vice President for Development Inge Reichenbach said. Reichenbach said her office is looking for a donor to name the new building at a price of at least $75 million, while Oster said the current ask on naming rights for the building is in the ballpark of $100 million.

“I don’t have a large list of people who are ready to make that commitment, but I expect there may be a few out there,” Oster said.

University President Richard Levin said the school’s name itself is not for sale. Naming the building would be enough, he said.

Of the nation’s top business schools, only Stanford, Harvard, Columbia and Yale have business schools without donor names. And as dean of the Chicago School of Business, Snyder, the SOM’s future dean, helped to attract a $300 million naming gift to the school from entrepreneur and alumnus David Booth.

“There’s a lot of precedent for naming business schools,” Reichenbach said. “But our focus is on the building.”

Oster said the SOM expects to open the doors to the new building in fall 2013, calling the timeline “very doable.” Although not all funds have been secured for the building as of now, Oster said she does not expect the financial gap to hamper the project’s progress. She said Yale will not provide any money to the SOM, but that the school’s budget is capable of handling some debt for the building.

“To make this financially work, we don’t have to finish raising the other half of [the money] this year,” Oster said, adding that she has a busy year of traveling and campaigning ahead of her to bring in the remaining revenue.

The University’s Yale Tomorrow campaign ends June 30, 2011.

Correction: Sept. 9, 2010

An earlier version of this article misrepresented the reason for the delay in construction of the School of Management’s new campus. The timeline for constructing the new building was pushed back last year due to lags during the planning and design process, not because of a lack of funding.

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