The Columbus Dispatch’s bromance with Gov. John Kasich is obvious. At least to those reading the paper’s coverage of him.
But there are now reports that some member or members of the Wolfe family empire are among the secret, early investors in DriveCapital, that questionable venture capital firm launched by Kasich’s pals that got off the ground with $50 million from Ohio State’s investment office.
The Wolfe family owns the Columbus Dispatch, WBNS TV, Columbus Alive, WBNS radio and bought, then closed, the Other Paper.
Drive Capital co-founder Mark Kvamme began discussing the fund with OSU administrators, including close friend and then-President Gordon Gee, while he was still running the state’s economic development agency. Kasich tapped Kvamme to lead JobsOhio – the public/private entity that was supposed to jumpstart the economy.
While Ohio’s economy has improved, it still lags behind the federal recovery. But Kvamme’s payday came nonetheless. He got to split an estimated $9 million in fees for DriveCapital’s first round of investments.
While long rumored that the Dispatch empire is invested in Drive, that rumor went public during a statehouse rally this week calling for higher education to find ways to keep tuition more affordable and pay faculty a living wage. The $50 million OSU used to help the governor’s pals could have been used for student scholarships.
Instead, America’s most profligate college prez, Gordon Gee, shoved the $50 million deal through against the advice of OSU’s stellar investment gurus, without full oversight from the Board of Trustees and with no effort to solicit competing proposals.
Rally-goes had signs such as “Children NOT cronies,’’ and “Wolfe, Wexner = Drive Capital.’’
“Wexner,” as in Les Wexner, founder of The Limited Stores, former OSU Trustee and former JobsOhio board member.
Included in the information OSU did release is an email from Dennis Hersch to OSU’s Geoff Chatas asking Chatas to ” let me know if there is a decision not to participate” in Drive. Chatas quickly informed Hersch that the investment was moving forward.
Who is this Hersch guy and why does he merit a quick reply from Chatas, a who emails show is Gee’s main ally is getting the $50 million approved?
Mr. Hersch is President of N.A. Property, Inc., through which he acts as a business advisor to Mr. and Mrs. Wexner, and has done so since February 2008. He also serves as a trustee of several trusts established by Mr. and Mrs. Wexner…..
Was the Hersch-to-Chatas email on Wexner’s behalf? He is NO LONGER a trustee. If it is on his behalf, why? Can any average Jane or Joe get that kind of info, access?
Ohio’s bigger newspapers have covered the high points of the Drive scandal, but it was The Plain Dealer of Cleveland – not the home town Dispatch – that went on a crusade to get OSU to release some of the records.
After OSU provided some, the Plain Dealer opinion page noted that the Drive deal “also has conditions attached … that requires university officials to notify Kvamme and Olsen whenever a public records request is filed. That is telling. OSU’s priority should be the public interest, not the sensitivities of a vendor.’’
You didn’t read that in the Dispatch.
But what you routinely do read in the Dispatch is the paper’s love of transparency and government accountability. Editor Benjamin J. Marrison’s weekly column, the Inside Story, tackles the topic almost every week.
When one of the paper’s top officials was among the leaders of a recent ballot issue to pass a zoo levy, the paper needs to disclose whether it really is invested in Drive Capital and – if so – how that came to be.
That would be some Inside Story.
UPDATE: As a reader pointed out, John Michael Spinelli revealed the Wolfe/Wexner/Kvamme connection in an Examiner piece this past December.