Exploring NYUAD Financial Disclosures

A detailed description of the most interesting findings from NYUAD's recent tax forms.

Nov 11, 2017

finance Illustration by Joaquin Kunkel

In 2009 NYU Abu Dhabi submitted its first 990 form to the United States Internal Revenue Service, filed as the NYU Abu Dhabi Corporation. The 990 form was a part of NYUAD’s first tax period as a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation, a designation in the United States that excuses most universities from taxation and in addition mandates that an organization’s financial statements be made available to the public. Due to the timing of filings and posting for public access, 2015 is the most recent year for which NYUAD’s financials are released.

The Gazelle reviewed NYUAD and NYU’s statements, which are filed separately, going back seven tax cycles. An overview of the most interesting findings follows below.

In absolute terms, NYU’s revenue dwarfs NYUAD’s. NYU’s revenue totals $3.3 billion USD (12.1 billion AED) in 2015 compared to NYUAD’s $178.8 million USD (657 million AED). NYU’s $519 million USD (1.9 billion AED) in government contracts revenue alone is more than double NYUAD’s total revenue.

Over 99 percent of NYUAD’s revenue has come from UAE government grants every year since its inception, with 148,983,283 USD (547,245,395 AED) from grants comprising the whole of NYUAD’s income in 2015. Funding from government grants grew every year up to 2014, when it increased more than 30 million USD (110 million AED) to 178.8 million USD (657 million AED), before falling, for the first time, back to 149.0 million USD (547 million AED) in 2015.

NYUAD’s funding sources differ notably from NYU’s. For NYU, contributions make up around 20 percent of the university's annual revenue, with the lionshare of income for the university coming from program services like tuition — 76 percent in 2015.

Despite these differences in sources of revenue, NYUAD and NYU are linked in their financial statements, with many of the details in NYUAD’s report mimicking those in NYU’s. NYUAD’s most senior executive staff such as Vice Chancellor Al Bloom, Provost Fabio Piano and Associate Treasurer Peter Christiansen are all paid through NYUNY and mentioned in both filings. In terms of money flowing between the campuses, although not detailed in full on the campuses’ 990 forms, the universities share a variety of administrative staff and web services. The imbalance of these services from NYUNY to NYUAD is in part offset by items like research funding, which according to a presentation on NYU’s global finances, in 2015, meant 30 million USD (110 million AED) was transferred from Abu Dhabi to New York, amongst other services.

Looking at trends in NYUAD’s net assets, 2014 — the year NYUAD moved from its Downtown Campus to Saadiyat island — offers an example of a particularly dismal fiscal year for the university, despite the 30 million USD (110 million AED) increase in government funding. NYUAD’s net assets in 2014 fell from 24.0 million USD (88 million AED) to negative 9.3 million USD (34 million AED), with net income for the year at negative 33.3 million USD (121 million AED).

The university appears to have partially masked the bottom line impact of ballooning expenses in 2014 through the sale of 23.3 million USD (85.6 million AED) in assets largely identified as “office furniture and equipment” in August 2014 to the UAE Executive Affairs Authority. The EAA is the government organization that runs NYUAD’s campus facilities through the subsidiary Tamkeen.

Expenses were also managed through reduced spending on salaries and wages, signalling there may have been some combination of fewer new hires, salary freezes or job elimination. Total compensation paid to the highest earning employees continued to rise across this period.

graph1 Illustration by Joaquin Kunkel

In terms of executive compensation, in 2015 then-President John Sexton and Vice Chancellor Al Bloom made 1.6 million USD (5.9 million AED) and 1.2 million USD (4.4 million AED) in total compensation respectively. In 2014, Sexton and Bloom were roughly the 16th and 30th highest compensated U.S. American university executives according to data from the Chronicle of Higher Compensation.

The compensation of Sexton as NYU’s President Emeritus is also stipulated in NYU’s filings. It states that Sexton shall receive “$800K per year, adjusted by the local consumer price index since September 1, 2008.” This payment is in addition to Sexton’s length of service bonus which is “$77K times the number of years he has served as a full-member of NYU School of Law” from Jan. 15, 2015.

Hannah Brückner, Vice Provost for Faculty Diversity and Professor and Program Head of Social Research and Public Policy, and Ramesh Jagannathan, Research Professor of Engineering, Vice Provost for Entrepreneurship and Managing Director of StartAD, were the only faculty among NYUAD’s 19 highest compensated employees. In 2015, Brückner earned 503,000 USD (1.8 million AED) and Jagannathan earned 458,000 USD (1.7 million AED).

John Long, listed as “Special Advisor on Fitness & Wellness,” received $451,000 (1.7 million AED) from NYUAD in 2015. Long’s current occupation is unclear to The Gazelle at the time of writing. He is reportedly a trained masseuse, certified in Swedish and Thai massage, in addition to being trained in “Leadership & Team Building Development.”

Yousuf Asfour, listed as “Former Director, IT,” received 684,000 USD (2.5 million AED) from NYUAD in 2015. At the time, he had already reportedly been serving as the CIO of the American University of Beirut for over a year.

More detailed information on NYUAD’s financials can be found by reveiwing aggregated statistics on Guidestar and Propublica’s archive of 990 forms.

Thomas Klein is an Editor-in-Chief and Alex Matters is a contributing writer. Email them at [email protected]

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