On March 9, Daniel Parker sent University of Missouri Athletics Director Jim Sterk a letter and contract. Sterk was four days removed from the men’s head basketball coach stepping down, and Parker promised to help him find a new one.
MU Athletics agreed to pay Parker and Parker Executive Search, the firm he served as vice president and managing director, $80,000 to help. Parker’s firm would find qualified people for the job, schedule job interviews for those people and even help MU prepare for the job interviews. The first payment of $40,000 came when the contract was signed, and the other half after either 30 days or when the school choose its coach, whichever came first.
Six days after Parker’s letter, MU hired Cuonzo Martin to coach.
MU Athletics is just one of many departments within the UM System to have used an executive search firm to help find people for important roles. ABC 17 News obtained two dozen contracts signed by school, athletic and even MU Healthcare officials from July 2015 to the present day for those services through an open records request. The contracts show these agencies agreed to pay firms at least $1,948,553 for their work.
Some contracts did not have a total amount listed in their contract. The University of Missouri-St. Louis, for example, signed a contract with The Hollander Group to find candidates for several positions within its School of Nursing. The contract listed a breakdown of how much it would cost for certain services, but did not list a final amount the school agreed to with the firm.
ABC 17 News has reported on many of these deals in the past. Along with the firm that helped hire, MU Athletics agreed to search firm services that landed Barry Odom as the football coach, Sterk as athletics director and Steve Bieser as baseball coach. Those contracts cost $84,720.60 to College Sports Solutions, $75,500 to Collegiate Sports Associates and $25,000 to Eastman & Beaudine respectively.
The University of Missouri spent the most on search firms since July 2015, agreeing to pay at least $854,220.60. Along with the four athletics department searches, it retained firms for seven hiring searches. Those include deans for the colleges of Business, Arts & Science, Agriculture and Public Affairs, along with searches for chancellor, vice chancellor for Extension and vice provost of Enrollment Management.
The UM System had just two contracts, and spent $233,333 on its two searches – one for UM System president ($150,000) and the other for its first ever chief diversity officer ($83,333). Isaacson, Miller performed the work on both of them.
MU Healthcare also had two contracts, but agreed to pay $450,000 for them – one to MSA Executive Search for $200,000 and another to InveniasPartners for $250,000. Neither contract stated what position the firms were helping MU Healthcare hire.
MU spokesman Christian Basi said the use of executive search firms helps the school develop a diverse pool of candidates to make critical hires. Firms have experience and resources to find and vet candidates from across the country, Basi said, which helps the school learn interview and decide on who to bring in. Basi said if Missourians want MU to maintain a national status, it needs good leaders, which good searches help them find.
Sometimes, the school embarks on its own searches for administrators. MU used internal search committees to hire the deans of the Journalism, Education, Health and Environmental Sciences and Law schools, Basi said. The decision to either hire a firm or conduct its own search often comes from the faculty’s national connections.
Isaacson, Miller collected the most money from the UM System at $557,333. It is currently handling the search for MU’s chancellor at an agreed upon cost of $140,000. It also handled the searches for the College of Business, which netted the hire of Ajay Vinze, and recently completed the search for the School of Public Affairs. The university recently ended the search, deciding not to hire any of the chosen candidates. Basi said it was in the process of closing out its contract with Isaacson, Miller.