The $4.3 Million Bunch At Thunderbird

by John A. Byrne on

Ramaswamy is paid $700,096 a year

Ramaswamy is paid $700,096 a year

The highest paid professor at the Thunderbird School of Global Management makes more than the dean of the Harvard Business School. Or his boss. Or, for that matter, President Obama.

Yet, he is little known outside his Glendale, Arizona-based school, not widely quoted in the media, nor broadly recognized as an expert in his field. He doesn’t even make the list of the top 50 business thinkers in the world.

Still, global strategy professor Kannan Ramaswarmy was paid total compensation, with benefits, of $700,096 in fiscal 2011, according to government records filed by Thunderbird. That’s more than the $662,054 in total compensation made by Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria or then-Thunderbird President Angel Cabrera who pulled down $584,749 in 2011. And it’s more than the estimated $550,000 in pay, benefits and perks that President Obama makes.

Inkpen is paid $565,457 a year

Inkpen is paid $565,457 a year

How in the world can a struggling school which has been in decline for many years afford to pay Ramaswamy so much? For one thing, he teaches in several of the school’s executive education programs which are among its more lucrative ventures. For another, he has tenure and the school can’t cross him off its employment roster even if it wanted.

Yet, he’s hardly alone in getting big pay at Thunderbird. In fact, the highest paid ten professors alone in fiscal 2011 were paid some $4.3 million, more than the $4 million deficit reported by the school, red ink that forced it into a highly controversial partnership with for-profit educational provider Laureate Education. Not surprisingly, perhaps, all of the most highly paid profs are men.

Andrew Inkpen, another global strategy professor, was paid $565,457 with benefits in the same year. Graham Rankine, an associate professor of accounting, was paid $492,908. The compensation for three other faculty members—Robert Hisrich, a professor of global entrepreneurship; William Youngdahl, associate professor of operations management, and Mansour Javidan, dean of research—all easily topped $400,000 a year.

Rankine is paid $$492,908 a year

Rankine is paid $$492,908 a year

Among the other top ten most highly compensated faculty at the school are John Mathis, a professor of global finance, who made $302,191; David Bowen, a human resources professor, who made $307,582; Dale Davison, a professor of accounting, who pulled down $261,789, and Humberto Valencia, a professor of global marketing, who made $260,109.

For just about all of these professors, of course, this is only the compensation paid to them by Thunderbird. Many faculty members also have lucrative consulting contracts with clients that can equal or vastly exceed their income from the school.

The school also has some very highly paid administrators. Thunderbird reported that it paid $366,343 in total compensation to Christopher Lee, its vice president for Russia, a person responsible for business development there. It also paid Tim Propp, the school’s chief business officer, $350,838 in fiscal 2011.

Nice work if you can get it.

DON’T MISS: THUNDERBIRD: A CASE STUDY IN ORGANIZATIONAL DECLINE or BUSINESS SCHOOLS WITH THE WORST PLACEMENT RECORDS OF 2012

  • Anonymous

    What a joke!

  • haha

    Dr. Ramaswamy earned a Ph.D. in strategic management from Virginia Tech;
    an MBA from the University of Madras in India; and a BS in physics from
    the University of Madras.

    700k for an Virginia Tech Ph.D is like paying Lionel Messi salary to a US benchwarmer soccer player

  • Bill Youngdahl

    Things aren’t alway as they seem. Faculty base pay at Thunderbird is generally on-par with what you find at peer institutions. We have an executive education group that delivers custom and open-enrollment programs for clients around the globe. Faculty compensation for delivering in these programs (a fraction of the client fee) can add significantly to overall compensation (beyond base salary). The compensation figures from your post represent extraordinary effort beyond the base job.

    You have highlighted overall faculty compensation (as though it were salary) without communicating the nature of the income or the financial contributions made by these faculty to their institution.

  • Raghu Tadepalli

    Professors who teach Executive Education seminars deserve every penny they make. It is tough work. Such programs are delivered all over the world and involve travel, customization of material to client needs, and often brutal evaluations by clients. One bad experience and you aren’t invited back. It is not as though Thunderbird has the $4M shortfall because of these professors. I am sure they brought in several times that amount and in fact helped reduce the deficit. The larger issue is one of positioning. Leaders of the school should have seen that positioning only on the basis of ‘global’ was ruinous and taken steps to position the school along other dimensions. This is a signal to other stand alone business schools that position only one attribute that they are on slippery ground.

  • Outraged

    Maybe it’s because he also has degrees from the University of Madras. But on a more serious note, where you went to school is not the be all and end all of everything.

  • GMATKing800

    Your logic makes absolute zero sense.

  • Glen Hubbard

    Let’s be honest, you aren’t close to be better than M7 faculty. Please stop being pretenders.

  • PleaseBanTheseLoserBschools

    Says the ASU MBA / Virgina Tech Ph.D….go to a real school if you want respect.

  • ThunderBirdfullofClowns

    Rankine could sure pay some of those big bucks to see a dentist!

  • RealAssetsFTW

    Let’s be honest, why are you posing as Glenn Hubbard?

  • RealAssetsFTW

    It is tough to judge whether these profs are worth it just based on what is provided. In my undergrad, there was a finance professor who was the fifth highest paid person at the school (football coach, basketball coach, etc. were higher). When an article came out detailing this, like everyone else, I thought it was ridiculous. Then when I actually took that professors classes I realized that the guy was probably worth even more than the school was paying him. The point is that Ramaswarmy could be the savior of Thunderbird for all we know – we would need more information to decide.

  • quiturwhining

    Hey whiners, the profs are piece workers. They are not salaried fat cats. Their base salary is generally less than most professors at other “big deal” MBA schools make (because T-bird has been too poor for almost 10 years to give salary increases… check your facts). The big income numbers the professors on the list made were literally trading dollars for hours. I guess if you do the math, that would mean they worked their rears off to generate that kind of income. If you are complaining, then you think hard work, talent and effort should never be rewarded financially. Seems to me you need to be on the dumb & dumber page, not this one.

  • B-School Prof

    These professors all engage in executive education activities that increase overall compensation 2-4x beyond their base salaries. Thunderbird has a top-10 executive education program with some of the finest faculty in the world. Their additional income is very small compared to the revenue they generate for the school.

    My advice if you are a business school dean is to make an offer to these profs to create or enhance your executive education program. These profs are the ones who built a top-10 program from scratch at Thunderbird. They seem to be more than earning their compensation.

  • Zion

    ASU and VA Tech are fine institutions.

  • Youarenitelite

    For subpar and mediocre people

  • Rankineisaloser

    I’m sure he uses them in smuggled Mexican sex workers rather than fix his homeless looking teeth.

  • GetThisLoserDeanOutOfHere

    ASU is great for hot slutty undergrad females who like to party and VT is great at producing animal killers like Michael Vick and crazy korean kids who go on shooting sprees.

  • NR

    I suggest before any one makes comments about Dr. Kannan Ramaswamy, you please take a demo of his class and you will realise why he is at the top! You can do the same with any professor in the world and then you would realise why The world’s largest company chooses Thunderbird and not any other school for its Executive programs

    I rest my case!

  • TBirdisaJoke

    Thunderbird is not better than Wharton, Ross, Kellogg, Booth, Anderson, USC, Fuqua , haas and all other schools with exec programs.

    Full time MBA at Thunderbird is a joke

  • Dan Graves

    You are not quoting salaries. Total compensation includes executive education overload pay. Please check facts before posting such inflammatory gibberish.

  • JohnAByrne

    The story never reports any of the numbers quoted as “salary” but rather as “total compensation, with benefits.” And the story clearly states that one reason for these large sums is executive education teaching, which to my mind raises another question: Why should professors who have very light teaching loads to begin with be paid so much more for exec ed duties at their own schools?

  • B-School Prof

    At business schools such as Thunderbird, you will find many professors who have light teaching loads due to research performance or other contributions. You will also find that there are very few who can teach effectively in high-level executive education programs. These faculty layer executive education work on top of university committee responsibilities, research and MBA teaching. They earn extra compensation for this additional work since executive education produces significant financial surplus and reputation benefits. Additionally, faculty with these abilities are in scarce supply and great demand.

    Those who teach in executive education programs are resented by peers, and they experience love-hate relationships with administrators. Notice the silence of Thunderbird’s leaders as you and others attack their key executive education faculty. On top of that, they are clearly not loved by journalists. But executive education faculty are good for business schools, despite the fact that Thunderbird couldn’t scale its executive education programs quickly enough to offset declines in MBA enrollment.

    In 2013, Thunderbird was ranked #3 in Executive Education. You were quick to discount this as an anomaly in another one of your stories, so it’s clear that you have a strong bias against Thunderbird. As you continue to lash out against Thunderbird, university presidents will likely poach these rainmaking faculty to build or enhance their own executive education groups.

    These faculty should be thanking you. They couldn’t buy this kind of publicity, and they will likely earn more at their next institutions. This is what happens in a market economy, especially when needed capabilities and priceless publicity intersect.

  • WhoCares

    They will be poached to teach at other mediocre schools with an average GMAT of 600 or below. They aren’t going to top 15 schools so who cares. Most people on this site are top applicants and that means top schools with access to exclusive and elite jobs such as MBB and Top BB banks. None of them care about Thunderbird, only the mediocre alums and faculty do.

  • Enuf Halreddy

    John Byrne cares deeply about Thunderbird. That’s why he keeps writing about the school. He’s considering changing the name of this site to Poets & T-Birds.

  • here2help

    Mr. Byrne, I find it it quite shocking how a person could serve as the managing editor of two fine business journals and still lack a fundamental knowledge of both arithmetic as well as economics. Your slime piece is a work of art based on absolutely no research focuses on large compensation numbers. Actually you swing between “salary” and “compensation” conveniently to create the illusion that these professors are actually earning these salaries implying fixed incomes rather than variable compensation-a bit of wanton obfuscation to juice things up. This is akin to having Colin Powell go the UN with a vial of so-called yellow cake:))
    Some education if you will…
    Businesses focuses on two things – costs and revenues. Ideally, the costs must be below revenues to make a profit. Costs are what you need to pay for things like salaries, rents, technology etc. Revenues are what you get when you sell your products and services to buyers. You focus only on cost without discussing what these professors actually bring in by way of revenues. You have only half the story albeit a sensational one that fits your narrow purpose. Second, there are these things called free markets. Countries such as the US have free markets for most goods and services. A free market implies that buyers and sellers are free to set their own terms and conditions, determine the fair price for the exchange and choose any source for the services they desire. There is free choice. This is not managed by the government as in some socialist countries that set prices. Thus, in this case, the client companies that contract with schools like Thunderbird are free to go anywhere they want to go. Therefore if they choose to go to that school, they do so because (a) they may find that the faculty there are the most capable of delivering the sort of education/training that benefits their employees, or (b) the value represented by a function of the quality and price may be the best that the company can find. In the case of Thunderbird, the faculty have been ranked among the top 10 globally year after year by the Financial Times, a newspaper with real journalists (I am assuming here that you know this because they must have taught you this in Missouri). These companies don’t care much whether you can balance a book on your head, whether you have written thought pieces, whether you have tenure, whether you have a Chair professorship and such. All they care about is whether you can deliver to their specifications. Now for the last bit, I know this might be taxing your brain a bit but bear with me, schools hire faculty members in a free market similar to the companies. In the market for talent, price is determined by demand and supply. If some unique teaching skills are in great demand, there is likely to be premium price that is expected. In executive education, there is a very small pool of faculty capable of delivering programs at a very high level. When that is the case, schools have to bid against each other to attract this talent because talent is the key to revenues…ergo the seemingly high compensation. I hope this clears up some of your gaps. Next time, we will discuss percentages, the subject of your latest foot-in-the mouth series. Good move there to rewrite the headline for that piece but it does show a weakness in arithmetic that we will remedy soon. In the meantime, why don;’t you go back to writing the fluff pieces about which bschools have the best toilets. You could build a franchise more suited to your disposition.

  • JohnAByrne

    Thanks for your commentary. I obviously disagree with many of your conclusions (and am surprised by the more personal attacks you make), but I completely understand how a person on this list might feel offended to be singled out for his rather high compensation. Tenured professors do not live in a free market economy. They live in a antiquated, highly protected world divorced from market realities. The fact that schools have to pay professors, with incredibly light teaching loads, exorbitant sums to teach an exec ed course that allows professors access to highly lucrative consulting engagements is one of the great scandals of academia. By and large, universities have been immune from the discipline of a market economy because they have been able to pass on above-inflation increases to students year after year. Highly selective, elite schools can get away with this. Thunderbird and many other schools, obviously, cannot.

  • Tired of this nonsense

    Mr. Byrne, you seem to divert the attention of those who want to learn about what it takes to get into MBA programs and achieve greater success as you focus on negative topics that are not helpful to readers. You paint faculty as “getting away with this”, receiving “exorbitant sums”, and living “in a(n) antiquated, highly protected world divorced from market realities.” You insult Thunderbird when it continues to achieve high standing in the 2013 FT exec ed ranking by discounting the results. You extend your insults beyond Thunderbird to all business school faculty who participate in the “scandal” of executive education programs at the very schools that visitors to this site hope to attend. You engage in personal attack after attack, diverting attention away from the core needs of the readers of this site, yet you are surprised when someone has had enough and punches back.

    Executive education, unlike the rest of academia, is a market economy. Tenure has nothing to do with the ability to make it in the world of executive education. Some schools bypass their own tenured faculty and rely on outsiders to deliver their exec ed programs. Why? Because not everyone has what it takes? And when that’s the case, some earn more than others.

    It might be a good time to move beyond bashing and insulting all tenured business school faculty, all faculty around the world who deliver in executive education programs, and Thunderbird. This would leave more time and attention for helping the readers of this site with more productive ideas to help them achieve their aspirations.

  • GoBlueDevils07

    As an M7 aspirant who went to a top 15 UG University, I believe this article should have never been written because TB isn’t even a school on my radar and for any top MBA applicant.

  • TBirdisaWasteofP&QSpace

    I will have respect when Thunderbird has McKinsey / BCG / Bain /Goldman Sachs / and Google recruiting on campus for it’s MBA grads in non-back office roles. Until then, its faculty and alumni are all mediocre beings with an inferiority complex. Don’t hate the player, hate the game and how God gave you crappy genes to compete in it.

  • DataMan

    Top-Ranked Business Schools With The Worst Placement Stats of 2012

    School
    Unemployed At 2012 Graduation
    Unemployed 3 Months Later

    Claremont (Drucker)
    87.5%
    25.0%

    Thunderbird
    76.1%
    54.6%

    Rensselaer Polytechnic
    66.7%
    33.3%

    University of Oregon
    65.3%
    26.5%

    Pepperdine University (Graziadio)
    62.4%
    39.3%

    UC-San Diego
    62.2%
    28.9%

    Syracuse University (Whitman)
    62.1%
    37.9%

    University of San Diego
    60.9%
    30.4%

    St. Louis University
    59.3%
    22.2%

    Fordham University
    55.5%
    45.0%

    American University (Kogod)
    55.3%
    23.4%

    State University of NY at Buffalo
    50.8%
    18.5%

    University of Colorado
    50.0%
    31.8%

    University of Texas at Dallas
    50.0%
    10.4%

    Such prestigious schools surrounds you TB?

  • BarrackObama

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  • Prospective Student at M7

    You are the Dean of Elon…..is that some community college that gives MBAs to people who can’t find jobs except flipping burgers and cleaning my @$$ Crack?

  • ThunderbirdIsACar

    In this so-called “free market” you speak of, I’d hope that all consumers would have access to as much information about their prospective purchases as possible. i.e., if I was looking at spending $100k on an MBA, and a school I was interested in had profs making far more than what I gauge, as a consumer, to be reasonable, then I’d want to know about it. Insofar as that’s true, Mr. Byrne’s article is absolutely of value to his site’s audience.

  • Old T-bird

    I am both an alum and a former employee of Thunderbird. I used to work very closely with many of the professors and top leadership in my job at Thunderbird. There are some really good professors at Thunderbird, but sadly many bad ones who were allowed to continue poor quality teaching and/or leadership positions. I was always amazed at the poor management of Thunderbird’s finances. Many members of senior management and professors were paid base salaries that were far too high for their continued inability to manage the school or teach properly. The attitude for many of the management and professors seemed to be protecting their own salaries and perks over the needs of the students and the school. The Board of Directors also frankly seemed somewhat incompetent and more interested in protecting the status quo rather that making hard decisions like firing people that were not doing their jobs properly. There were top management and board members that were and still are allowed to continue to create damage to the school in multiple ways, mostly financially. I remember during one financial crisis at the school in the early 2000′s where top management and board members and their spouses all went to Anncey, France for a board meeting. I never understood why they had to go to France to have a board meeting when the school was having financial trouble. That seems rather stupid and backs up my continued belief that most top management, professors and board members serve themselves first before the needs of the school and the students. There are professors and employees at Thunderbird that do not feel this way and work hard to do what is most beneficial for Thunderbird.
    Also, having said this, I am not venting or bitter toward the school. I loved the education I got at Thunderbird, but I went back in the early 90′s when the program was more of a tri-part curriculum and frankly more international business than I think it is today. So for me Thunderbird will always be an awesome experience in terms of my education, but I fear that the school’s inability to rid itself of poor leadership and demanding professors who are paid too much has caused damage that will be hard to fix. Still we shouldn’t give up trying.

  • Old T-bird

    I agree with your comments and have seen this first hand as I have worked with faculty.

  • Old T-bird

    You are right Thunderbird is in a class by itself:) Thunderbird isn’t like other business schools and never has been. Thunderbird is the forward thinking business school that all other business schools are now trying to copy to some extent in terms of becoming more global in their curriculum. I’m OK with Thunderbird being different and not the “same” cookie cutter MBA program top 20 or not. I’m very glad I didn’t go to a “normal” MBA program because that isn’t what I was interested in.

  • guest

    wow, the fact that you would even waste time writing this says a lot about you and it isn’t good!

  • guest

    man you need to take some yoga or something you have a lot of anger or you are just a big snob who thinks he is better than everyone else.

  • mcommentator

    Thunderbird has been exposed for who they truly are and have
    always been which is a diploma mill. Thunderbird accepts some 70-80% of its applicants while most ranked business schools have acceptance rates of less than 20%. Wow, Thunderbird is really
    selective. Add to this a no name professor pulling down some 700 K per year
    (more than the Dean of Harvard Business School ) and serious ethical questions
    should be raised if not questions of fraud. The most important statistic,
    however, that points to the utter incompetence of the institution is the
    abysmal placement record for its graduates. Thunderbird fails miserably in this
    area. This school needs to be investigated for financial impropriety.
    Perhaps the most telling demonstration of Thunderbird’s true intentions
    is its “new partnership with Laureate Education. What the article does not
    state is that Laureate runs Culinary Institutes (The Blue Mountain
    International Hotel Management School-located in Australia, Fashion Academies (The Pearl Academy of fashion in India), Art Schools and the vaunted Richard W. Riley College of Education. Come on. Tell me what legitimate Business School would align itself with network of trade schools. These types of trade schools have long been known as money making schemes, promising students careers in high
    fashion or work in the best restaurants in the world. Do you think any top 25
    legitimate Business School would sink to these depths and risk its reputation
    and academic integrity. What does that tell you about Thunderbird and its
    motives. Thunderbird should just face the music and go out of business rather
    than continue down this path of the “Trade School” route.

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