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University of Louisville Trustees Vote For Bonus, Smaller Raise For President Ramsey

Alix Mattingly

The University of Louisville Board of Trustees is giving President James Ramsey a hefty 25 percent bonus and 3 percent raise.

The raise was reduced from the 6 percent a trustee committee originally recommended after a lengthy debate about the merits and extent of Ramsey’s full compensation, which is among the highest among peer universities according to a consultant report.

Ramsey’s base salary is about $650,000 and his bonus will be about $162,500. His raise will be about $20,000, and part of it, as well as the bonus will come from the university's foundation.

However the majority of Ramsey’s compensation comes from deferred compensation—a delayed bonus used to retain employees. But Trustee Craig Greenberg  took issue with the timing mechanism of Ramsey’s deferred compensation package—which vests immediately instead of after a period of years.

“In the contract it vests at the end of the year. They call it deferred compensation, but it immediately vests. Again, that’s an oxymoron that is not deferred compensation,” Greenberg said.

Ramsey’s estimated deferred compensation for 2014 was $1,905,239, bringing his total compensation to $2,529,239 according to a revised audit of the president’s compensation presented to the board on Friday.

The initial estimate for Ramsey’s 2015 compensation is $1,672,114—which includes $1,023,153 in deferred compensation and gross-ups.

According to the report, Ramsey’s total compensation was almost $3.3 million in 2012 and $1.86 million in 2013

Factored into Ramsey’s deferred compensation are gross-ups, grants awarded to Ramsey to reimburse him for taxes paid on his income and other awards. The consultant's report originally didn't include gross-ups, which were first reported by WDRB. In the consultants' revised report, they advised against using gross-ups, saying that they are “not common practice and should be eliminated, going forward.”

The supplemental financial packages are awarded by the University of Louisville Foundation, a non-profit organization that manages the university’s $1.1 billion foundation.

Several board members including 21C Hotel owner Steve Wilson, attorney Craig Greenberg, investment banker Steve Wilson and historian Emily Bingham voiced displeasure with the president’s compensation package.

“This compensation package, its structure and approach has more in common with Wall Street bankers' investment compensation packages than with that of a University leader,” Greenberg said during the meeting.

The report also advised against the foundation’s immediate vesting of Ramsey’s deferred compensation package, saying that it should be dispersed after at least three years.

“There is no retention element if the deferred compensation award vests immediately,” the report said.

Though not necessarily supporting the deferred compensation packages provided by the foundation, several trustee members spoke in favor of Ramsey’s 25 percent bonus and pushed for a 6 percent raise to his salary.

Trustee Ron Butt applauded Ramsey’s success in fundraising for the University and foundation, highlighting $1.3 billion raised for new buildings during his tenure.

“How are you going to put a price tag on Michael Jordan if he comes to play for your team? Are you going to pay him more than everybody else? Yeah! If for no other reason than intimidation. Jim is highly respected and sought after,” Butt said.

Critics of the 6 percent raise for Ramsey won out, eventually putting it in line with the average raise for faculty members, 3 percent.

Board president Rob Hughes advocated for the higher raise and bonus, saying that it wasn’t the board’s job to worry about Ramsey’s perception among faculty.

“The person that’s going to have to handle that is going to be the president and his staff working with the faculty, that’s his job to do,” Hughes said.