Learning to keep proper minutes

We discovered yesterday that Imperial College’s working group overseeing its £1billion plus planned redevelopment of Wye was in the curious habit of failing to keep minutes of important meetings. This is odd, and generally viewed to be very bad practice.

Should the group require advice on how to improve its poor practice in this area, it surely need look no further than its own Tanaka Business School which promises that, ‘Learning core management disciplines from an internationally respected faculty, you gain both the perspective to ask the right questions and the skills to deliver convincing answers.’

Unfortunately, if you go to the business school’s own website you will find a few convincing answers missing. Not least… where does it unusual name come from? Let us help…

The ‘Tanaka’ stems from one Gary Tanaka, a former Imperial student turned venture capitalist who promised to donate £27m to build the new business school several years ago. Some interesting facts about Mr Tanaka and the school, which was opened in 2004 by the Queen…

  • According to the Daily Telegraph neither Professor David Norburn, director of the former Imperial College Management School nor Lord Oxburgh, the former rector, can say whether the £27m pledge, the detail of which was negotiated under the eye of Richard Sykes, was ever paid in full. ‘I was the founding director of the school, but my involvement was in giving the brief to the architects on the new building. Basically Sykes plays his cards very close to his chest,’ says Norburn.
  • Imperial says that it does not need to disclose details of the donation under the Freedom of Information Act. ‘…this agreement was drawn up by College legal advisors and Dr Tanaka’s counsel, and is considered commercial and confidential. The College holds this information in the form of a Donation Agreement. However, after taking legal advice, the College believes that the disclosure of this agreement would constitute an actionable breach of confidence and is therefore exempt under section 41 of the Act.’
  • The decision to name the school after its donor was Richard Sykes’. ‘This was a big surprise to everybody,” Norburn says. He also oversaw relations with Gary Tanaka during its construction.
  • In July 2005 Tanaka and his business partner Alberto Vilar were arrested and charged with fraud. They were initially accused of stealing $5 million from a client of their company Amerindo, which they allegedly used for personal use and donations to various philanthropic causes. The pair will now go on trial in October and have both pleaded not guilty to 12 counts including securities fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering. The two are accused of defrauding investors between July 1986 and May 2005 by soliciting millions of dollars under false pretenses and misappropriating those funds, according to the indictment. Tanaka is reportedly under house arrest in New York.
  • In 2000, when the donation was announced, David Thorburn described him as ‘one of the most exceptional entrepreneurs of our time, which makes him the ideal role model for … Imperial students.’ When pressed on this last year he asked, ‘Did I really say that?’

Imperial is expected to have to change the name Richard Sykes gave the business school should Gary Tanaka be found guilty on charges which would inevitably incur a jail sentence. Prof Sir Richard may also find it difficult to continue to be so vague in public about the funding of this ‘donation’ too. One hopes someone kept a note of all these private meetings…

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About David Hewson

Professional novelist, published in more than 20 languages. Creator of the Nic Costa series set in modern Rome. Most recent book the novel of the Danish TV series, The Killing.
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4 Responses to Learning to keep proper minutes

  1. J Osborne says:

    My what a strange organisation! One wonders what on earth will be your next revelation on the embarrassing and tawdry machinations of this once revered university?

    Imperial’s publicity handouts constantly claim ‘5 star’ – but ‘5 star’ what?

  2. Nightjars to the Rescue says:

    300 SQUARE MILES FROZEN in the heart of Southern Britian –
    The EU protects birds such as the Nightjar. If you saw the front page news of The Independent on 2 May, you will know that the EU together with English Nature and 11 councils have frozen development on 300 square miles of Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire since October last year. In addition, a 5 mile exclusion zone around breeding areas for the Nightjar, Dartford Warbler and Woodlark are in place.

    So what? well, this area of Kent is a known Nightjar breeding place (see http://blx1.bto.org/atlases/NJ-atlas.html ) and I have heard today that Nightjars may have been sighted in the area in the last 6 months.

    Well, who will call English Nature? Anyone out there who has any information on this subject? Anyone interested in a weekend of Twitching?

    Leave you comments here, but please DO NOT REVEAL the breeding locations

  3. Nightjars to the Rescue says:

    The local address for English Nature is kent@english-nature.org.uk perhaps they could comment or provide valuable input to the Wye Future Group on this subject?

  4. Demosthenes says:

    Thank you save-wye. This astonishing revelation says much about the credibility of the Concordat stakeholders, their shady operating methods and questionable friends. For all their grand titles and condescending pronouncements, they appear no better than an unprincipled rabble. So far only the Lord Lieutenant has admitted his inappropriate behaviour in using his position to further Imperial’s development ambitions.  Sykes is out of control. As Rector he is supposed to be accountable to the Imperial Council, but in spite of all the evidence of corporate failure Imperial’s governors’ seem content. What have they been told? Do they care? The message for Wye seems to be that Imperial is untroubled by considerations of accountability and the use of public money. Why should Borysiewicz bother to respond to our questions when he can simply throw more money at PR to blot out the reality. No wonder really – our dozy local politicians seem easily convinced by Imperial’s spin.

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