ORU donations, debts decline
BY SHANNON MUCHMORE World Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
12/02/08 at 3:34 AM
Thanks almost entirely to a donation from Yukon businessman Mart Green, Oral Roberts University is in far better shape financially than it was a year ago, according to financial statements.
But discounting Green's contribution, total donations are down. And a $5 million debt owed ORU by the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association could go unpaid, tulsaworld.com first reported.
Contributions for 2008 were $75.3 million — including the $71 million donation from the Green family, which owns the Hobby Lobby and Mardel Christian stores.
The 2007 number was $7.7 million. The university's endowment as of April 30 was $34.8 million.
In a phone interview, Green, who is now chairman of the ORU board of trustees, said the financial information is being released as part of the university's recent decision to embrace transparency.
Families of ORU students want to know how the university is spending its money, as do contributors, he said.
"Your donors want to know what their money is going for and they have a right to know that," he said.
A key aspect of that transparency deals with ORU's separation from the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association — headed by former President Richard Roberts — which owed ORU about $5 million for 2007-08. The university has deemed the debt potentially uncollectible and has provided a reserve for the amount, according to the note.
Some employees worked for both companies at the same time and each organization provided services for the other. The statements provide no specific account for how those employees were paid.
The groups were separated in November 2007, and ORU stopped doing any services for the association as of April 30, according to the note.
ORU's financial status has been in the spotlight amid recent news of a separation agreement paying nearly $450,000 to Richard Roberts and the announcement of layoffs for 100 employees early next year.
Green said both decisions were necessary for the university to continue its mission.
"There are two separate issues," he said. "One is, we had an agreement and we're going to pay our agreement — and we did — to Richard. And two is we're committed not to live in deficits forever."
Roberts resigned a year ago last month amid scandal resulting from lawsuits that alleged he and his wife misspent university funds for their personal gain.
The university had $190 million in total assets as of April 30, when the statement ends the fiscal year. That number is up $30 million from 2007. The change in net assets for 2008 was positive in the amount of $55.6 million, as opposed to $10.5 million in the red during 2007, according to the statements.
ORU's debt in 2007 was at its record high of $55 million. That was down to $23 million as of April 30, and officials say it has been further reduced to $17 million.
An independent audit by Cole and Reed P.C. of Oklahoma City does not list any problems with the financial statements, and states they are a fair presentation of ORU's financial position.
Green said the financial position is obviously different from last year, but still needs to be improved through an increase in enrollment and donations, as well as overall better money management by the university.
"We're each day trying to rebuild the trust with people, because people don't give to something they don't trust," he said. "So we're just out there sharing the story that there's great things happening at ORU."
Green said he and ORU Interim President Ralph Fagin are traveling across the country to talk to alumni about the changes at ORU, Green said.
He said it will take two or three years for ORU to turn its financial situation around, but it should improve with each annual statement.
"I think the prospect for ORU is better than it's ever been because of all the changes and what we're putting in place," he said.
Shannon Muchmore 581-8378
Mart Green: The chairman of ORU's board of trustees said the financial report reflects the university's decision to embrace transparency. "Your donors want to know what their money is going for and they have a right to know," he said. "We're each day trying to rebuild trust with people because people don't give to something they don't trust."