Thursday, June 18, 2015

Paul G. Rice: Brilliant Businessman or Trusty Tagalong?

Much has been made of Sweet Briar Board of Directors Chairman Paul G. Rice: some of it nice; most of it...not.

President of Avaya Government Solutions.

A Google search (how did we survive before the interwebz?) proffers scant information about Rice's history, which is surprising for an individual touted as a leader in the Telecommunications industry.

Rice is a member of UVA's Engineering School’s Capital Campaign Cabinet.  He's on the Board of his daughters' private school.  A lover of theatre, he founds The American Children of Score, the Highland Center for the Arts, and The Rice Theatre.  He donates significant sums of money to Best Friends Foundation, which focuses on girls rejecting drugs, alcohol, and premarital sex (okay, that's creepy).

Maybe I'm just used to business leaders and CEOs who promote themselves and their companies and Rice is an introvert who prefers to keep to himself.

But that doesn't explain the dearth of information. And honestly, I can't figure this guy out.

After graduating from UVA in 1975, Rice spent ten years working at Computer Sciences Corporation.  He left CSC with two colleagues--Alan H. Harbitter and David C. Karlgaard--and formed Performance Engineering Corporation.  In October 1985, Rice was named (Sr.) Vice President; he wouldn't become Chief Operating Officer for another eleven years.  Could he have been a third wheel, riding his friends' coattails over a span of 21 years?

But that wouldn't explain how, in 2000, Paul Rice was named to Federal Computer Week magazine's "Federal 100," an annual honor bestowed on the region's top 100 technology executives selected by an independent panel of judges. According to the magazine's notification letter, award winners were selected for having the "greatest impact on the government systems community in 1999."

Luckily, I know a thing or two about award selection criteria, particularly in the realms of Technology and Telecommunications: anyone can nominate any person or company AND...people actually lobby to win these awards.  Crazy, right?

Fast forward to May 2004 when he becomes President of PEC Solutions & his buddy David Kargaard is appointed CEO.  This is in preparation for the 2005 acquisition by Nortel: the better one's title and pay pre-acquisition, the better one's title, pay, and stock post-acquisition.

A few months after Nortel purchased PEC for $448 million, Paul G. Rice donates $10 million to his alma mater for their new engineering building.

No red flags.  His past is rather banal: a well-heeled man is in the right place at the right time, following in the footsteps of the right people.

What are we missing?  Is Rice embracing his Machiavellian side, or is he a bumbling fool who tagged along while others did the real work?

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