Thursday, May 22, 2008

Byrne Family Comes Out for Parity

Via Joe Malchow:
In an email sent Wednesday afternoon to members of the Class of 1985, Mark Byrne ‘85 T’86 and Patrick Byrne ‘85 of the billionaire Byrne family tell classmates that they have decided that the Board-packing plan proposed last September by Chairman Ed Haldeman and his five-person Governance Committee is “radical,” “heavy-handed,” and “undemocratic.”

Messrs. Byrne urge election of the pro-parity slate of candidates for the Dartmouth Association of Alumni, who are running against a slate of candidates (styling themselves as the “Unity Slate”) who would permit the plan to go forward full tilt, upsetting the 117-year balance between duly elected trustees (currently half of the Board) and handpicked self-propagating appointees (the other half). The partity slate would enforce the 1891 Agreement between the Board and the Association guaranteeing a half-elected Board; the other slate would dissolve it.

The brothers have never met the petition trustees who now compose one full quarter of the Board; nor have they, to this page’s knowledge, ever taken a position on Dartmouth politics before. But the brothers Byrne do recognize a sore loser when they see one.
The parity slate can be found here. The voting takes place here; about 15% of alums have voted thus far. Voting ends on June 5.

The Byrne e-mail to the class of '85, below the fold.

From: Mark Byrne ‘85
Date: Wed, May 21, 2008 at 5:30 PM
Subject: Mark and Patrick Byrne Support Parity
To:

Dear Fellow D’85,


We know you are being bombarded with email and snail mail, and regret
adding to that pile. However, we felt compelled to write to you, to
urge you to vote in the Association of Alumni election, and to tell you
why we are voting for the Parity Slate
(http://www.dartmouthparity.com/vote/).


The College-sponsored slate has the full tools of the College
propaganda machine; the Parity team do not, and must rely on partial,
obsolete mailing lists. That kind of undemocratic approach is key to
why we feel continued Alumni - elected involvement at the 50% level is
vital to the future of the College.

The first tool of the propagandist is the ad hominem attack. They don’t
really try to defend the indefensible, namely the implementation of the
Board-packing plan by stealth. Instead, they label their opponents,
especially the four petition trustees, as extremists, bent on taking
over Dartmouth.

We are not extremists, and we have never met the petition Trustees or
any of the Petition slate. We are two brothers, who love Dartmouth and
have consistently supported the College for many years. Frankly, we
expect that there would be important disagreements between us if we did
meet the petition Trustees. But these things are clear:

1) Because a few trustees got elected by petition, who had
differing views to those of the leadership, the college tried to change
governance by referendum, to make it harder for petition trustees to get
elected. They lost that referendum.

2) President Wright wrote to us shortly thereafter, promising an
end to the matter.

3) The matter was not, in fact, dropped, and a five man governance
committee managed to plan and narrowly pass a resolution to turn
Dartmouth’s Trustee’s Board into a self-electing elite, permanently.
The courts will decide whether this was a breach of contract. However
we don’t need a court to tell us it was a heavy-handed and undemocratic
thing to do.

4) The extremists are the ones who breached a hundred year old
deal because a handful of trustees had views they didn’t like.


We urge you to vote for the Parity Slate. If we don’t elect them, your
vote will never matter again.


Sincerely,


Mark Byrne D’85 T’86

Patrick Byrne D’85 (PhD Stanford).


Full post, here.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

While I fully support their position, doesn't it seem a little snotty for them to imply that their opinion is important because they happened to come out of a billionaire's womb?

Anonymous said...

Where do they imply that? I read the e-mail expecting to see that sort of thing, but I don't think it's there. The closest they come to even mentioning their money is this: We are two brothers, who love Dartmouth and
have consistently supported the College for many years.
If anything, it's a very tasteful understatement.

I disagree with their views, but it's a rather classy letter, especially in comparison to the other stuff I've gotten in the mail. And it's also interesting that 2 people who will always have the ear of the College administration regardless of the composition of the Board of Trustees feel this way.

It's Malchow and Dartlog who bring up the money.

A.S. Erickson said...

While I don't think their wealth is as important as Joe stresses, I think it is interesting. A predominant theory around Hanover has it that the Board feels like they can strong arm the alumni in the short run because it has the backing of the College's big donaters. I have no idea how true that theory may or may not be, but this is really the first bit of information to come out that may contradict that. I don't think their opinion is worth more than any other opinion (and it doesn't seem like they do), but it is a little more interesting.

Anonymous said...

They got a letter from Wright. How many of us can say that?

I wonder what they had to say to get access to the class of '85 mailing list.

extreme burn said...

They didn't find it through online research, that's for sure. They think this big ol' PDF is "by stealth".

Anonymous said...

to title their blitz "Mark and Patrick Byrne Support Parity" reflects at least a bit of presumptuousness. if they were independently wealthy it would be one thing, but when they do that it makes them look like self-important trust fund kids.

Anonymous said...

ok nevermind, i saw that patrick at least runs overstock.com...nevertheless, still a not very classy move

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:25
Mark Byrne’s bio is readily available in many corporate directories.
He is the founder of Flagstone Re traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Prior to that he ran Value Capital, L.P. an investment fund in which Warren Buffett had invested $620 million. (Many think that this is the only time that Buffett used a non-employee to invest Berkshire's money.) Buffett also used Mark to close down General Re's derivative business. Before Value Capital, Mark Byrne was a Managing Director at Credit Suisse First Boston, responsible for Global Fixed Income Arbitrage in London and Tokyo. It sounds like an impressive resume to me.
Your remarks almost seem like the "ad hominem attack" referred to in paragraph 3 of the Byrnes' letter

Anonymous said...

It's funny how the people who used to say the trustees don't deserve to govern because they are just CEOs or investors (just walked into their money?) now sound like they are defending people whose actual accomplishments are overshadowed by their extreme wealth.

Shouldn't people focus on what the Byrnes said and whether their letter indicates a passing knowledge of the topic?

Anonymous said...

The opening argument is the Byrne letter is:

"The College-sponsored slate has the full tools of the College propaganda machine; the Parity team do not, and must rely on partial, obsolete mailing lists. That kind of undemocratic approach is key to why we feel continued Alumni - elected involvement at the 50% level is vital to the future of the College."

Unfortunately, this statement is factually incorrect. First, there is no "College-sponsored" slate. All of the nominees on the Unity slate were put there by the AOA nominating committee(all alumni) and four of the petition slate were put there by the same committee. Neither slate has "the full tools of the College propaganda machine", whatever that is. Neither slate has access to official College mailing lists although both have copied the 2006 alumni directory. That playing field is level. Both will attest to the obsolete status based on envelopes returned to the USPS. The statement "undemocratic approach", therefore, has no value because the premise is invalid.

It would appear that this paragraph, and the ones that follow, were fed to the Byrne brothers in order to get their well-known name out to the class of 1985.

Which raises the question, where did the Byrne brothers get a class address list? It had to come from a class officer who has the list obtained from the College. Those lists are not supposed to be for partisan campaigns.

Thus, the credibility of this letter is open to question. The heavy hand of Frank Gado '58, a petition candidate, appears to be at work. One of his favorite words is "ad-hominem"

anony said...

The British use of "team" as a plural noun ("the Parity team do [sic] not") suggests a pompous grammar pedant, which also fits the Gado profile, or at least the Malchow profile. Note also the continuing focus on the mailing-list question and the inside knowledge that there are multiple lists in use.

The later noun-pronoun number disagreement between "the propagandist" and "they" is unlike Gado. Perhaps the brothers tweaked his writing to make it their own.

The factual errors that 11:29 mentioned are by no means the only ones found in the email. The plan wasn’t put in by “stealth,” the plan is fully defensible and has been defended (it allows the board to pick more of its members and prevents the expansion of alumni elections), the opponents – especially the later petition trustees – are accurately described as extremists, the college never tried to change alumni governance or lost a referendum (it was an alumni committee), Wright never promised to end the matter and did not speak for the extremists who kept the matter alive by started the lawsuit, the board was not turned into a self-electing elite because it always has been such, the plan was not adopted undemocratically but by majority vote, and it can’t have been “heavy-handed” at the same time it was passed “narrowly” (and the passage margin is not public information, so any petition trustee who released that information has broken his oath).

Anonymous said...

11:54, you're really going out of your way here.

(1) none of the "factual errors" you cite are statements of fact. "Stealth," "heavy-handed," etc. are statements of opinion.

(2) I don't know how it is that you know what Jim Wright said to them in private correspondence that allows you to say that the Byrnes are mischaracterizing it.

(3) You've apparently never seen a real pompous British grammar pedant. Some telltale signs include signing letters "cheers," using the word "bullocks" or "cocked-up" when they're upset, going out of their way to use words that have alternate spellings in the UK "paedophiles are not my favourite," etc. Your evidence of pompous British grammar pedantry is scant.

(4) If you've read anything about the election closely enough that you can recognize Frank Gado's writing style, then you must have some better thoughts on it that what's in your comment.

11:54 said...

3:46, the claims that the college tried to change governance or lost a referendum, that the board turned into a self-electing elite, that the plan was adopted undemocratically, that there is elected involvement at the 50% level, and that there is a college-sponsored slate are factually incorrect, and any "opinion" is inexcusable misstatement.

I didn't assume Wright's letter was "private correspondence" as you did, rather I assumed it was a general letter sent to all alumni. Even if it was private, I doubt Wright promised to drop the matter. The filing of the lawsuit does not mean he has failed to drop the matter, either.

You've apparently paid little attention to my comment. I did not say Gado is a pompous British grammar pedant, I said he is a pompous grammar pedant who would use "team" as a plural noun. I assume you are unfamiliar with his intra-Association campaign to eliminate the use of "vox" as a verb, meaning "to submit to Vox for publication to alumni." And you've bolloxed up your description of British pedantry: the word is not "bullocks," which is the plural form of the word for the male bovine, but "bollocks." And "cocked-up" isn't used when someone's upset unless he's upset at something being "messed up."
What could be better than pointing out that the Byrnes' letter gives ample evidence of the fact that they have little idea of what they are pretending to write about? Alternatively, the misinformation and errors indicate that they did not write the letter at all but left it to some yet nameless propagandist.

Anonymous said...

"Byrne Family" really means "Byrne Brothers," does it not? The family's dining hall was mostly funded by the father, who is not an alum and did not join his sons in the letter.

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