Harvard Fencing Coach Sold His Home to Father Seeking Admission for His Son: $400,000 Above Appraised Value, But There’s Much More!

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!

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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