Regents respond to presidential search firm change

The Board of Regents decided to end its partnership with Storbeck/Pimentel and Associates last week due to a perceived conflict of interest.

by Helen Sabrowsky

The University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents are now working with AGB Search on the presidential search since ending their agreement with Storbeck/Pimentel and Associates on Oct. 3 over a perceived conflict of interest.

The University announced last week that AGB Search will take over as the third-party firm guiding the presidential search after the board determined Storbeck/Pimentel’s involvement in Michigan State University’s presidential search could create confusion for candidates.

Regent Randy Simonson said Storbeck/Pimentel’s involvement in Michigan State University’s search was a clear conflict of interest, but he is confident the new firm will be able to work well with the committee and board to find a new president. 

However, Regent Michael Hsu said he was not as worried about Storbeck/Pimentel’s involvement in Michigan State University’s search, as their timeline is different than the University’s and they are looking for different types of candidates. 

The board will announce the new president in December, while Michigan State’s search will end in June. 

While Hsu said he was not concerned, he understands why others were apprehensive. The board was under the impression Storbeck/Pimentel wouldn’t take on similar searches, and he decision to work on another search contributed to a lack of trust in the firm, he said. 

Alberto Pimentel, the lead consultant on the search, said while he understands the board’s concerns, he didn’t believe his Storbeck/Pimentel involvement in Michigan State University’s search would be a conflict of interest as he is not involved in Michigan State’s search and they have significantly different timelines. 

Additionally, the University’s search timeline of three to four months is short compared to other presidential searches at large universities, which typically last five to nine months, he said. 

Laura Bloomberg, a member of the Search Advisory Committee, said the committee felt it was inappropriate for Storbeck/Pimentel to work on another presidential search at a large research institution in the Midwest. The firm met with members of the board, the committee and the University Senate within a week of being contacted by regents. 

Rod McDavis, the managing principal of AGB Search, said he is confident his firm can stick to the time frame the board established, despite joining the search two months in. 

“We have stepped in and hit the ground running,” he said. 

While McDavis and other members of AGB Search were not at the listening sessions designed to gather input from the University community, they have reviewed notes the committee gathered. 

Bloomberg said the committee questioned AGB Search to ensure the firm won’t take on any similar searches. 

“If there’s a search for a small, private college president, that’s a very different search than a large research institution in the midwest,” Bloomberg said. “But when you’re talking about two large research institutions in the midwest, then … that’s a little too close.”

Correction: A previous version of the article misstated the details of the contract between Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates and the University. The contract did not include a conflict of interest clause.