Questions surround anonymous donation to Missouri athletics

Wednesday, June 27, 2012 | 8:10 p.m. CDT; updated 12:28 a.m. CDT, Thursday, June 28, 2012

COLUMBIA — Before MU Athletics Director Mike Alden had even reached the microphone, questions had begun to circulate: Who is the Kansas City Sports Trust, and how could its members — or anyone — come up with $30 million to give away?

On Tuesday, Alden delivered headline news about a $102 million athletics facility renovation plan, then he increased the buzz with word of the second largest private donation in MU history.

Trust lawyer Mark Foster said he has been questioned about the group’s anonymity. Foster, a partner in the trust’s legal consultant Stinson Morrison Hecker LLP, is the lone public voice for the trust.

He declined to reveal personal details about the members of the trust, including its size, but tried to provide some clarity as to why the trust prefers to remain in the shadows.

Who is the Kansas City Sports Trust?

The group has no shortage of passion for MU athletics. Tuesday’s $30 million gift is the second publicized donation the trust has given to the Tigers, the other being the $10 million donation it sent MU in 2004.

The 2004 donation came shortly after the founding of the trust, which consists entirely of MU alumni. The members are spread throughout multiple states and none currently work for the university, Foster said.

"The purpose of the trust right now is directed at the University of Missouri and the athletic department," Foster said. "That's not to say it couldn’t be changed, but that's been the direction to date."

Why does the trust want to remain anonymous?

When the group was formed in 2004, its members reached an agreement to remain anonymous in all facets, a decision that would encompass their quantities, ages, occupations and other personal details, Foster said. He described the anonymity as a good-faith agreement to avoid recognition or scrutiny.

"They want to make contributions they think are beneficial without being second-guessed or scrutinized about it," Foster said.

What is the relevance of the Kansas City location?

Foster said the name is as straight-forward as it sounds: It is a sports trust in Kansas City, and its name merely represents its physical location.

Although Foster said the Tigers’ move to the Southeastern Conference was the catalyst behind the trust’s decision to donate the $30 million, he said the donation made no statement about ending the Border Showdown rivalry between Missouri and Kansas.

The 120-year rivalry, which has played its football games in Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium since 2006, closed its doors this past season with MU’s decision to leave the Big 12 Conference.

Many think the rivalry should continue despite the switch to a new conference, and there is discussion about how much support will remain in Kansas City for Missouri sports.

At Tuesday’s press conference announcing the donation, Alden made sure to emphasize the “Kansas City” half of the name, a quip that was greeted by laughter. Although it seemed to go over well with many in the audience, Alden declined to expound on his joke afterward.

"But I do think that it’s noted, at least by us, that coming straight out of Kansas City is the second largest gift ever given in the history of the entire University of Missouri, and there was an awful lot of enthusiasm because of the move to the SEC," he said.

How did the trust settle on $30 million?

Foster said the donation was discussed over the course of the past few months but there were no organized meetings.

Foster said his role is only to receive and deposit funds, emphasizing that he was not a part of the discussion process. He said he did not know how the $30 million figure was determined.

"People often times want to make gifts and be generous without sticking their heads out in the public realm," Foster said. "They're not looking for recognition, they just want to be helpful."

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Scott Wilson June 27, 2012 | 11:07 p.m.

Great interview! Everyone speculated it was just one donor, not from Kansas City, etc. Way to get to the facts!

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith June 28, 2012 | 5:14 a.m.

We need to find a Trust located in some God-forsaken but oil-rich nation that's willing to give as little as $10 million to improve ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE at all four University of Missouri System campuses.

Perhaps academic faculty and staff at the four campuses might even receive nationally competitive salaries.

Why is MU now in the SEC and not the Big 10? As another poster has pointed pointed out, even in the SEC many university members have active academic presses.

We should all be happy our "flagship campus" has its priorities clearly defined.

(Report Comment)

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