Marian University moves ahead despite lack of pledged money

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INDIANAPOLIS — A businessman who pledged $48 million to build a medical school for a small Catholic university has ponied up only about one-fifth of that, but the school’s president says it’s not causing a financial crisis.

Marian University President Daniel Elsener said he doesn’t know whether Michael Evans, the founder and former owner of AIT Laboratories, will make any more payments beyond the nearly $10 million he already has given.

The university is sitting on debts it took out based partly on Evans’ pledge, made five years ago, when he promised to pay the full amount within nine years. Since then, Evans has struggled with financial and legal problems.

“The original plan to pay the entire pledge was based on the continued success of his business,” Elsener told the Indianapolis Business Journal (http://bit.ly/2bjm6sG). “That has changed radically from when he made the commitment. . I don’t know what the future holds, in terms of his ability to pay it off.”

Evans’ attorney, Andrew McNeil, declined to answer questions about Evans’ balance and finances, saying: “He just wants to move on.”

In 2011, the university sold $100 million in bonds and used about much of the money to build and equip a 140,000-square-foot Center for Health Sciences. It was a huge investment for the 2,500-student university on the west side of Indianapolis, which at the time had net assets of just $99.4 million and annual revenue of $51.9 million, according to financial statements filed in its bond prospectus.

In May, Evans, his bank and his insurance companies agreed to pay back more than $3 million to employees who bought AIT from him in 2009. That settled a lawsuit that the U.S. Department of Labor filed in August 2014 alleging Evans sold the company to employees for far more than it was worth.

In the past three years, AIT has cut two-thirds of its workforce to cope with a huge downturn in revenue, primarily caused by deep cuts in Medicare reimbursements.

Marian leaders say other fundraising efforts are exceeding expectations, which is helping to make up the shortfall from Evans’ pledge.

Marian officials say they keep in regular touch with Evans to update him on the medical school’s progress, and have no plans to take Evans’ name off the building.