The community of business is buzzing over the ouster of USC Marshall School of Business Dean Jim Ellis, who was told by interim USC President Wanda Austin he would be removed from his post at the end of the school year. The move set off a firestorm among Marshall backers and prompted a unanimous letter to Austin from the business school’s Board of Leaders demanding she retract her decision on Ellis – who allegedly mishandled sexual harassment and misconduct claims. The letter seems to have done little to sway Austin or USC’s Board of Trustees, which backed the interim president’s decision at a meeting last week. The hullaballoo comes amid a streak of scandals at the school involving high-level administrators and employees, which led to the ouster earlier this year of longtime USC President C.L. Max Nikias. Bystanders are left with more questions than answers at this point, including this one from yours truly: How much money has the school shelled out for lawyers in 2018?... Another scandal – and that’s the only term for it – the business community should be keeping a close eye on is the state of Los Angeles corporate boards. Pat Maio took a look at some of the region’s public companies this week and found at least 10 outfits that do not have a single woman director. Many avoided that ignominious distinction, including the top 25 L.A. County-based public companies ranked by 2017 revenue, but that subset of the business community doesn’t have much cause to hold its head high, either. The standard bearers in the region’s business community had an aggregate board composition made up of less than 20 percent women. Not exactly an achievement to write home about. Check out Maio’s story on page one and more from our Year in Review package starting on page 14… More L.A. business scandal was unveiled last week in a story by National Public Radio media reporter David Folkenflik, who dug up evidence that former Los Angeles Times Editor-in-Chief and Publisher Davan Maharaj was given a secret $2.5 million payout as he was exiting the company. The payout, Folkenflik’s article claims, was, at least in part, to keep Maharaj quiet. Maharaj’s leverage was, the NPR article asserts, recordings of former tronc (now Tribune Publishing Co.) Chairman Michael Ferro, who, according to the story, remarked that L.A. businessman and philanthropist Eli Broad was part of a “Jewish Cabal” running the city. The whole imbroglio is indicative of tronc’s tenure running the Times, which featured severe newsroom cutbacks and a strategy that will not so lovingly be remembered as the “content funnel.” While the honeymoon period with new Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong is not yet up – we’re waiting to see where the newsroom and management stand after union contract negotiations conclude – it seems unlikely that a return to the dysfunction of the tronc era is in store… A quick note passed along from former Business Journal Publisher Matt Toledo: Well-known L.A. and Santa Barbara business community member Gene Sinser died Dec. 2. His family urges us all to call our loved ones. I’ll take that advice to heart.
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