|The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Jun. 21, 2005 - Ohio State University is considering renaming the Blackwell hotel now that its namesake is a convicted felon.
A federal jury found Roger D. Blackwell guilty yesterday of 19 counts related to illegal stock trading; the university subsequently announced Blackwell's resignation as professor of marketing.
As a result, the university "is reviewing matters related to the naming rights associated with the Blackwell Inn," Ohio State spokeswoman Elizabeth Conlisk said yesterday.
The 151-room property opened in June 2002, primarily as lodging for visitors to the Fisher College of Business. It's also open to the public and boasts a gourmet restaurant, ballroom and suites overlooking Ohio Stadium.
Blackwell earned naming rights when he pledged $7.2 million to the college.
But now that Blackwell faces up to 10 years in prison and as much as a $1 million fine, some wonder if the name should stay.
"Not too many convicted felons have stuff named after them at universities," said hotel analyst Eric Belfrage of Integra Realty Resources.
One Ohio State alumnus took the point further.
"This is not what the university needs," Jeff Wisniewski said.
"It's frustrating when you hear about that kind of stuff, when people take advantage of their position to gain access to information that the general public is not privy to. Just like in the Enron case, where people lost their jobs and their life savings, a case like this Blackwell issue is a shame."
Some in the hospitality industry believe the verdict will have no effect on the hotel, which had a 71.4 percent occupancy rate this year through May, one of the best performances in the university area. The main reasons: The hotel's main customer is the university, and many out-of-towners don't know anything about Blackwell.
"I can't imagine that (the conviction) is going to hamper the hotel's ability to attract future business at all," said Joe Marinelli, senior vice president of sales for Experience Columbus. "I don't think planners are booking that hotel or not booking that hotel because of the name." The case has had an effect on Blackwell's ability to hold down positions on the boards of publicly traded companies.
Before being indicted on Aug. 31, Blackwell was on the boards of three local companies. He resigned from the Max & Erma's Restaurants Inc. board last year. He also left the boards of Airnet Systems Inc. and Diamond Hill Investments.
Blackwell continues to be a director of Applied Industrial Technologies, a Cleveland-based industrial equipment wholesaler. Spokesman Rick Shaw said company management will make a decision within two weeks on the seat, which Blackwell has held since 1996.
"Now that the verdict has come in, the board will take whatever steps necessary to review and reach a decision on it," Shaw said. "We've never had to face anything like this before." Blackwell's status as a board member of Anthony & Sylvan Pools Corp., based in Mayfield Village, is unclear. Bill Evanson, the company's chief financial officer, said yesterday that because the pool manufacturer converted from public to private ownership last year "we're not addressing questions such as this."
The conviction was a hot topic on campus.
Blackwell, who taught honors and graduate-level marketing courses and executive-education courses at the college, was "one of the best professors I've ever had," said Bradon Foust, a senior business major from Columbus.
"It just goes to show you that you really don't know someone at all," he said.
New York resident Rocco Cavalluzzi, who was checking into the Blackwell hotel yesterday, said he's not going to alter his travel plans because of the conviction.
"It's a joke, I mean come on, insider trading?" Cavalluzzi said. "Who doesn't act on a stock tip? Isn't that what you're supposed to do?"
By Tracy Turner and Mike Pramik
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