The $4.3 Million Bunch At Thunderbird

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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

Air Time - Comments
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • guest

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

  • 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.

  • Old T-bird

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • BarrackObama

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