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CFO to remain in position despite announcement of replacement search

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Geoff Chatas, CFO and senior vice president of business and finance, will keep his post as CFO per request of President Michael Drake after it was announced in February that Chatas would move to a new role at the Wexner Medical Center. Credit: Lantern File Photo

Geoff Chatas, CFO and senior vice president of business and finance, will keep his post as CFO per request of President Michael Drake after it was announced in February that Chatas would move to a new role at the Wexner Medical Center.
Credit: Lantern File Photo

The Ohio State chief financial officer will stay in his position after it was announced last February he’d be taking on a new role at the Wexner Medical Center. That position as CFO, though, is one where he’s received criticism in past performance reviews.

Geoff Chatas, CFO and senior vice president of business and finance, will keep his post as CFO per request of President Michael Drake after it was announced in February that Chatas would move to a new role at the Wexner Medical Center.

OSU spokesman Gary Lewis said in a Monday email that Drake asked Chatas to remain as CFO in October. Lewis said in a later follow-up call that Drake asked Chatas to stay because of Chatas’ expertise in that job.

Chatas had moved into the role of senior vice president for optimization and integration and Medical Center chief transformation officer as of March 1. It was announced he would remain CFO until a replacement was chosen and started.

Chatas’ position at the Medical Center was a new one at the university, then-Interim President Joseph Alutto said in an email to faculty and staff at the time. In that role, Chatas was set to look to increase operating efficiency as he pursued new sources of revenue.

But Lewis said the search to replace Chatas as CFO never began — something that wasn’t immediately made clear when The Lantern asked Lewis about the search nearly a month ago.

In December, The Lantern was told a replacement for Chatas hadn’t yet been chosen, with no additional details about the search process or the timeline for when a replacement was expected to be chosen available.

Chatas has served as CFO and senior vice president at OSU since February 2010. He worked for AEP Texas Central Transition Funding LLC prior to his appointment.

Now that Chatas is staying put as CFO, he will no longer be in his position at the Medical Center, though he will continue to assist with recent transitions of leadership as well as serve on the Medical Center board, Lewis said.

Chatas’ position at the Medical Center will not be filled, Lewis said, though he didn’t give a clear explanation as to why.

Chatas’ salary will remain at $683,153, Lewis said. That’s what it was in 2013 and what it was set to stay at during his role at the hospital.

But Chatas hasn’t necessarily received shining performance reviews as CFO in the past.

In a performance review from September 2013, Alutto criticized Chatas, saying Chatas needed to create a more pleasant work environment.

He said if Chatas forced changes his team couldn’t handle, it could “cripple the university” in the long term.

Alutto also wrote that Chatas needed to focus on his “own personal and professional development” as well, noting how Chatas was quick to “point out the shortcomings” of peers, as well as other individuals across campus.

Chatas was also criticized in a separate instance for an investment-related matter: In 2013, OSU invested $50 million in venture capital firm Drive Capital, despite concern from Alutto about the amount of money being invested.

“The only issue I see is the initial size of the investment,” Alutto said in a June 13 email to Chatas. “What is the justification for a $50 million investment rather than one in the $20-30 million range that you described as more typical?”

Former OSU President E. Gordon Gee, who hired Chatas, gave him a largely favorable review in September 2012.

Gee wrote that Chatas had “learned and made great progress” in leadership and teamwork, and asked Chatas to seek “new and innovative ways to finance the university’s future.” That same year, Chatas was named CFO of the Year by Columbus Business First, following a recommendation by Gee.

In a Wednesday email, Chatas said as CFO he is “driven by the need to keep Ohio State affordable for students while supporting excellence in teaching, learning and research,” and plans to continue to work toward this goal.

“My team and I are focused on two key approaches: using our existing resources well and finding innovative financial approaches to fund the university’s priorities,” he said.

Editor’s note: This article was updated with Geoff Chatas’ statement Jan. 7.

4 comments

  1. You’re paying a CFO almost $700,000 and in a 2012 review Gee said he had “learned and made great progress” in leadership and teamwork. I would think he would have learned that much earlier in his career. Where in the world do universities find these folks and why do they pay them outrageous sums that they likely would have a very hard time earning in the private sector. And of course everyone in administration is “working” on keeping tuition affordable. Give me a break.

  2. Chatas worked in the private sector and made millions every year…

  3. Interested observer

    There is a tension between the medical center and the rest of the university. The question is whether the individual was so good at the CFO post that he could not be spared or whether he was not good enough for the job at the medical center. Recent changes in personnel at the medical center deserve more investigation.

  4. Never forget, from the last line of this Plain Dealer article (http://www.cleveland.com/open/index.ssf/2013/10/ohio_state_university_has_inve.html): “Wexner, like Gee, remains an influential figure at OSU. Several buildings on campus bear his name, including the medical center . . . And one of Wexner’s closest friends and business associates, Jack Kessler, is Chatas’ father-in-law.”

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