The saga that is Jerry Falwell Jr. does not look like it is going away anytime soon, with reports that the university will investigate Falwell’s financial involvement in the institution’s property deals.
Reuters reports that Liberty University has hired a firm to investigate “all facets” of Falwell’s tenure, including the school’s financial and real estate operations.
Meanwhile, in a statement provided through his lawyer, Falwell has stood his ground. Referring to the question marks surrounding his family’s positions at Liberty, Falwell told Reuters: “Trust me, you do not want to mess with me, OK?”
According to Reuters, Falwell “put his two sons and their wives on the university’s payroll. He arranged the transfer of a multi-acre Liberty facility to his personal trainer. He enlisted a friend’s construction company to manage an ambitious campus expansion costing hundreds of millions of dollars.
“And before becoming school president, Falwell set up two companies that enabled him to cut property deals with one of the many nonprofit entities affiliated with the university, Reuters found. In each of the deals, Falwell played multiple roles with potentially conflicting interests: He was an officer of the university, a board member for the nonprofit selling the land, and a private developer who could profit from the transactions.”
Reuters also reported that in 2012, the university spent more than $2 million to build a tunnel that linked the campus to another shopping plaza near campus. Falwell is a part owner of that shopping plaza.
Falwell has also walked away with a $10.5 million payout.
This is unusual behavior for any not for profit organization, who are always sure to keep the finances of the group separate to the directors and executives. It would be like Joel Osteen buying the church property or campuses through his own name or company, only to lease it back to the church.
Falwell potentially had more involvement than most university heads, given his father was the founder. Those sorts of relationships are much harder to manage than straight out contracts, where an outsider is taking the position.
Falwell stepped down recently after announcing that his wife had had an affair with a business partner of his. He has now been permanently removed from liberty, with Dr. Jerry Prevo acting as President.