Paul Tudor Jones II, a billionaire hedge fund titan and U-Va. alumnus, had been acquainted with Dragas for about a month, according to associates of Jones’s who spoke on the condition that they not be named. She had called him in May to ask if he wanted to join U-Va.’s Board of Visitors. He declined, but he urged a focus on strategic planning.
In June, as Dragas was being assailed from all directions, Jones told Dragas that he would write an
op-ed piece backing the board.
President Teresa Sullivan’s “departure is a clarion call from the Board of Visitors that business as usual is not acceptable anymore,” Jones wrote in the June 17 edition of the Daily Progress of Charlottesville, one week after the announcement that Sullivan would be leaving. He asked: “Why be good when there is outstanding to be had?”
The commentary turned heads. It was not just at odds with a rising fury about what was seen as the board’s lack of openness and candor. It also came days after a widely circulated e-mail showed that powerful alumni knew about the move against Sullivan weeks before the rest of the world.
Sullivan was reinstated June 26, but many in Charlottesville were left believing that influential donors had a hidden hand in the turmoil. With his op-ed, Jones, a Wall Street superstar who famously predicted the stock market’s 1987 collapse, became a lightning rod for suspicion.
Few others had publicly cheered the board on.
Jones, 57, who rarely speaks to reporters, declined an interview, but new details of his role have emerged from those who know him. Many did not have authorization to speak for attribution. Still, the details fill in more of the picture and point to the complexity and tension of relations between governing boards and big-money donors.
These associates say that Jones did not orchestrate the removal of the president, contrary to what many in Charlottesville believed. He was told in advance about a possible leadership change, but he was not asked for his opinion.
Later, amid the uproar, Jones weighed in because he supported the power of boards to make such decisions and the long history of board governance at U-Va., according to Jones’s associates. He saw board members as volunteers acting in good faith and was dismayed that the board was being vilified.
In Jones’s view, too, U-Va. needed “stakeholder-driven” strategic planning and a transformative change in attitude and vision to better position the school to compete aggressively with the Yales, Stanfords and MITs of the world.
What Jones did not realize as he wrote the piece, however, was that the full Board of Visitors had not met to discuss the president’s removal or taken a roll-call vote on the matter before she was asked to resign.