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April 09, 2008 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 2008-04-09

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I 46 The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, April 9, 2008

ichigan athletics is big
The University of
Michigan Athletic Department
has a budget of $74.5 million and
projected revenue of $87.4 mil-
lion this fiscalyear. Last summer,
Adidas and the University inked
an 8-year agreement worth $7.5
million for the company to sup-
ply apparel to Michigan's 25
athletic teams. The new basket-
ball coach makes $1.3 million a
year with bonuses for reaching
the NCAA Tournament and an
extra $150,000 for winning it.
The new football coach makes
$2.5 million a year - more than
three times the yearly salary of
the University's president.
Athletic directors, the people
who oversee all that money, tra-
ditionally haye a strong connec-
tion to collegiate sports.
Fielding Yost, who served as
athletic director from 1921 to
1941, was a longtime Wolverine
football coach whose 1901 team
outscored opponents 550-0 and
won the first Rose Bowl. Fritz
Crisler (1947 to 1968) coached
the football team for 10 seasons,
winning71games andlosingonly
16. Don Canham (1968 to 1988)
coached the Michigan track and
field team after competing on it
as a student. Everyone knows
Bo Schembechler (1988 to 1990),
one of the most successful col-
lege football coaches in the
sports history. Jack Weidenbach
(1990 to 1994) was senior associ-
ate director of athletics before
taking the department's top
job. Joe Roberson (1994 to 1997)
was once signed by the Brook-
lyn Dodgers. Even Tom Goss
(1997 to 2000), an experienced
businessman, played defensive
tackle for the Wolverines in the
Bill Martin is different.
Rather than playing on the
football team here, he went to
field, Ohio, and then earned a
graduate degree in economics
from the University of Stock-
holm in 1963. Only after that did
he come to Ann Arbor to get an
MBA in 1965. His sport of choice
is sailing, and he has served as
president of the United States
Sailing Foundation and the U.S.
Sailing Association. He has
never been a legendary football
coach. He has been president of
the U.S.Olympic Committee and
has taughtclasses at the Univer-
sity of Michigan Ross School of
Business School.
Above all, Martin is a busi-
nessman. A very successful busi-
In 1968, he started First Mar-
tin Corporation, an Ann Arbor-
based commercial real estate
firm, which now has ownership
interests in 40 area properties
totaling about 1.4 million square
feet, according to Robert Gates,
an FMC vice president.
Take it from longtime com-
petitor John Swisher III,

co-founder and chairman of
Swisher Commercial, who said
Martin's company has set the
pace for local commercial real
estate companies.
"I can't think of any-
one at the same level," he said.
Martin is a partner in or owns
a number of other smaller com-
mercial real estate companies,
including C3 Capital Partners,
2401 LLC and Traverwood II
LLC. He is also the founder and
chairman of the Bank of Ann
That's his resum, but who is
Bill Martin?
And what does the answer to
that question mean for the Uni-
versity of Michigan?
Perhaps as a result of thou-
sands of business deals, Martin
has developed what is reputed.
to be one of the most charming
personalities on campus.
During a recent two-hour
interview in Weidenbach Hall,
he doled out life advice to a
writer for The Michigan Daily,
mused about the power of Rob-
ert's Rules of Order and talked
about the importance of taking
economics classes.
He speaks quietly but firmly
and clearly. When he gets agi-
tated, he exudes an almost
grandfatherly sense of disap-
pointment. He's also a bit of a
name-dropper. He read a quota-
tion from W.B. Yeats ("Too long
a sacrifice can make a stone of
the heart") that a big Athletic
Department donor sent to him
during the search for a football
coach this fall. He mentioned an
Easter e-mail he received from
Pierre Woods, the New England
Patriots linebacker. Then there
are the New Year's gifts from
billionaire alum Sam Zell.
Both real estate moguls, Zell
and Martin got to know each
other as competitors. Each year,
Zell sends out small statues -
each about a foot tall - that play
songs the Chicago businessman
wrote himself. Martin insisted
on showing their off. For exam-
ple, one is a replica of the torch
from the Statue of Liberty with
a rolling ticker that displays the
entire Declaration of Indepen-
dence and a recording of Zell's
new lyrics to "This Land is Your
Because Martin spends so
much time working as athletic
director (he says he's in the
office from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on
weekdays), he has scaled back
his involvement with his busi-
ness holdings, letting his sons do
most of the work.
"I haven't been active at all,"
he said.
As one of the largest lease-
holders in the area, it's of little
surprise that the University is
one of Martin's largest tenants.
The University leases 158,255
square feet of office and labora-
tory space directly from Martin
or from one of the many com-

a similar situation, but that in'
this case there isn't because all
the leases are approved publicly1
at the regents' monthly meeting,
and the rents are at market rate.
"That's why we have disclo-
sure,"Taylor said.
As if to prove the point, he
noted that the wealthy Martin,
who takes home about $370,000
a year from the University and
likely much more from his busi-
nesses, doesn't need the Univer-
sity's business.
"He could have retired five
times over," Taylor said.
Business competitors as well
as faculty members who have
worked with him on the Advi-
sory Board for Intercollegiate
Athletics say Martin is ethical
and honest.
Jim Curtis, owner of Curtis
Commercial, an Ann Arbor-
based real-estate company that
directly competes with FMC,
praised his professionalism:
"I've always said this: The only
company that I would recom-
mend outside of my own would
be Bill Martin's."
It was his business acumen -
combined with his U.S. Olympic
Committee experience, his sail-
ing organization leadership and
his locker near then-President
Lee Bollinger's in the Intramu-
ral Sports Building - that got
him the job of athletic director
in the first place.
"(When Goss announced his
resignation) Bill came to mind
- a very successful business-
man, very public-minded, very
devoted to Michigan," said Bol-
linger, now president of Colum-
bia University, in an interview
earlier this month.
Bollinger called him a "non-
traditional candidate for the
position" and likened him to
Michael Bloomberg, the billion-
aire mayor of New York. Bloom-
berg skipped the traditional
political pipeline and went right
to the top. "Not your average
politician, great businessman,"
Bollinger said. Like Bloomberg,
who accepts only a dollar a year
as compensation from the city,
Martin was paid an annual sala-
ry of one dollar in his early years
as athletic director.
Initially, his appointment was
temporary, and Martin didn't
want to be a candidate for the
full position. But during the
search for a permanent direc-
tor, several coaches and Ath-
letic Department staff members
signed a petition encouraging
Martin to stay on and took it
to Martin. He says the petition
prompted him to reconsider his
There was also another rea-
son: He had begun reforming
the department's finances, and
he wanted to see it through.
"Iknow what it's going to take
to fix this place," he said.
Part of the reason Martin
was brought in was to clean up
the department's financial state.

The last departmental budget
under Goss was revised in Sep-
tember 1999 to reflect a project-
ed deficit of $2.8 million. Martin
cut costs and increased revenue.
Among other tactics, he signed a
new radio contract, added pre-
mium seating in Crisler Arena,
installed the balcony in Yost Ice
Arena and slashed staff through
The chorus of his support-
ers sounds like this: "When he
came into the department it was
in a deficit. It was losing money.
Within a very short time Billhad
turned that around and stabi-
lized the finances." (Coleman)
"He does deserve credit for
bringing the Athletic Depart-
ment into the black and beyond."
(University Regent Olivia May-
nard (D-Goodrich))
"The economic situation has
gone from dire to very sound."
(Charles Smith, chair of the Sen-
ate Advisory Committee on Uni-
versity Affairs)
They're right. The depart-
ment's budget for the 2008 fiscal
year projects a surplus of $12.9
The advantages of having a
seasoned businessman as ath-
letic director are obvious. But
does anything get forgotten in
the wake of making business
decisions? Critics of the renova-
tion of Michigan Stadium - and
there are many - say so.
The $226 million renovation
has drawn criticism because
it includes the addition of 83
luxury boxes, which many fac-
ulty members, students, alumni
and others say is a rejection of
the stadium's bleacher seating-
inspired egalitarian values.
To Martin - who has updat-
ed much of the department's
aging infrastructure, built an
academic center and aims to
redo the basketball stadium
next - the addition of skyboxes
is goodbusiness. He says they're
necessary to fix the Big House's
press box and its other outdated
elements. "I didn't wake up and
say'Oh, let's add some fancy sky-
boxes to Michigan Stadium,' "he
School of Education Prof.
Percy Bates, another member of
the athletics advisory board who
speaks positively of Martin, put
it this way: "In terms of a busi-
ness mindset, it was: I need to do
this, and I need a way to pay for
Would former athletic direc-
tors have made the same deci-
"Because they didn't have
such a business background,
some of them might have looked
at it differently," said Bates, who
has worked with every athletic
director since Weidenbach.
Roberson, the former athletic
director, has spoken out against
the skyboxes. Asked to name a
time he made a decision that was

panies in which he has an own-
ership stake. The University's
Museum of Art Off/Site gallery,
the Center for the Education
of Women, the Department of
Psychiatry's Addiction Research
Center and radiation oncology
research space for the Medical
School are among the uses for all
those square feet.
For that space, the University
pays at least $220,000 a month
in rent directly to Martin or to
one of his companies (that total
consists of the current monthly
rates for seven properties and
the initial monthly rates for five
As one ofthe University's most
powerful figures and a business-
man profiting from the school,
he sits in a precarious position.
There is always the threat of a

conflict of interest.
University President Mary
Sue Coleman has adamantly
stated that Martin has always
been upfront about his business
with the University.
"He's been scrupulous about
hisbusiness dealings and making
sure everything was disclosed,"
Coleman said. "I am very confi-
dent that we disclose everything
and absolutely believe that he
has done this enormously well."
In a way, Coleman is stak-
ing her reputation on Martin's
forwardness. So is the Univer-
sity Board of Regents, which has
approved the leases with full
knowledge of Martin's potential
conflict of interest.
Regent Martin Taylor (D-
Grosse Pointe Farms) said there
could be a conflict of interest in

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