When I ran into Lubert, wearing jeans and a sweat shirt, peacefully watching a football game at Schlessinger's Deli, I could not resist asking him some questions. I have known Lubert for over 20 years. I can say that during that time he has always been fair and decent to me. For a guy of his immense wealth, he has always been very approachable and low maintenance.
He said, "The whole Penn State situation is a disaster. I was on a conference yesterday morning from 9am to noon. I was on two conferences calls today, 9 in the morning and 5pm. I will be at Penn State starting Wednesday of this week for three days."
Since the replacement to football coach Joe Paterno had been chosen, I wondered why he was still working hard. "I am on the executive committee," he explained. He then joked, "I am making so much money for all this hard work." Lubert is, of course, a volunteer. "The job is alot harder than it looks from the outside," he continued.
His friend, builder Jeffery Orleans chimed in, "Ira bleeds Penn State." Lubert was a star wrestler at Penn State and is now rumored to contribute substantially to the salaries of both the wrestling and football coaches. There is no doubt that his incredible salesmanship helped the troubled football program land a coach.
I have no reason to doubt his loyalty to the Nittany Lions. I also dispute the contention that his actions were a power play. He already has enough power. Lubert, who is an ardent Republican, is about to open a money printing casino in Valley Forge. He also has been very generous to Philadelphia institutions such as sponsoring the National Constitution Center's Liberty Medal, which has been awarded to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates. However, Lubert-Adler is the target of several unhappy investor lawsuits.
Naturally, I wondered why Penn State did not consult with public relations professionals before the media maelstrom. Lubert said, "I do not see any advantage in talking to the media." He apparently miscalculated that the media would want to talk to him.
He stood by his decision of not using a staffing firm to find hire Bill O'Brien as replacement football coach. "The member of the committee had vast experience in hiring people." said Lubert. Maybe, he should have checked with his own employees before considering himself an expert on hiring.
Former employees have complained that he is a tough boss.For the record, I have found no evidence that Lubert defrauded investors. Some of his recent real estate investments are underwater or bankrupt because they were made at the top of the market while Lubert earned substantial fees to make these bad investments.
I was not able to get an answer to the most important question of all- Why didn't the Penn State trustees react quicker to the scandal and fire Paterno and complete bar access to Sandusky?