This is one for the book on the human mind having no limitations on creativity when it comes to desperation. Harvard is investigating its fencing coach, Peter Brand’s, sale of his home in Needham, Massachusetts to Jie Zhao, a wealthy businessman from Maryland, for over $400,000 above the home’s appraised value of $549,300. The Needham assessor described the home as vintage 1960s in “bad shape,” and that the sale for that amount made no sense.
Ah, but the assessor did not understand that shortly after the sale took place, Mr. Zhao’s youngest son (in high school at the time) was admitted to Harvard and, for a time, was on the fencing team. Mr. Zhao, not planning on relocating from Maryland to Needham, sold the house one year later, for $665,000. So, speculating here, Mr. Zhao got his son into Harvard and was able to write off a bribe paid to a coach as a capital loss.
Harvard has indicated that it does not believe the incident was related to Operation Varsity Blue, the sting operation that has nailed coaches and parents across the fruited plain. Nah, of course not.
The Barometer would like an answer to this question: How exactly do these conversations for these schemes go? “Say, coach, I am thinking of relocating to the suburb of Needham, MA. Know any good housing opportunities?” Coach, “Have I got a place for you! And I can get it for you for just $400,000 above appraised value.”
As the topper, following their fortuitous sale to the Maryland businessman with wanderlust, Coach Brand and his wife purchased a condominium for $1.3 million, just about $300,000 above the asking price. These folks were some awfully shrewd deal makers when it comes to real estate transactions.
Now, to add to the circumstantial pile of transactions, Mr. Zhao previously made a $1 million donation to the National Fencing Foundation. Who knew there was such a charity? The next year, Mr. Zhao’s oldest son was admitted to Harvard, as a fencer. When the son enrolled in Harvard, the National Fencing Foundation made a $100,000 donation to a private foundation started by Coach Brand and his wife. The donation was only one of two donations that the Brand private foundation received before it was dissolved within two years. Speculating here again. Before the Brands realized the 1960s home they were sitting on was a gold mine, they found the world of charity and all of its tax deductible/exemption glories. Oh, what a tangled web and all that.
Harvard issued a statement saying that there was a great deal it did not know about the allegations. No kidding!