CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Morgantown businessman and former U.S. Senate candidate John Raese's business is concerned about the ties between the chairman of the West Virginia University board of governors and another company that does business with WVU.
The head of WVU's board, Drew Payne, is an investor in West Virginia Media. The company airs WVU athletic shows and is reportedly seeking to get a piece of lucrative new contract to broadcast more WVU sports programming.
"I think that is sort of alarming to me," said Robert Gwynne, the executive vice president of Raese's holding company, Greer Industries. "You have him as the chairman of the board of governors, and that's something that should be looked into."
Raese is not a disinterested party. He owns West Virginia Radio Corp.
The radio network has for years controlled the rights to air WVU sports. Those broadcasts are part of the bread and butter of Raese's radio empire.
But now Raese's company could lose out because WVU and North Carolina-based media firm IMG College are working on a 12-year deal to manage the university's so-called Tier 3 media rights, which includes radio. That deal could carry an overall value of $110 million for the firm.
Another media mogul, Bray Cary, is reportedly seeking a piece of that deal. Cary runs West Virginia Media, which could become an IMG subcontractor.
Payne is an investor in Cary's West Virginia Media.
Now, Raese plans to send a letter that raises a number of concerns about the pending deal, Gwynne said.
"We are closely watching this process," Gwynne said in a telephone interview Thursday. "Obviously over a long period of time, basically 73 years except for two seasons, we have managed those rights for the West Virginia athletic department."
Raese's letter is expected to go to WVU President Jim Clements, Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and David Raese, who is John Raese's brother and business partner and the publisher of the Morgantown Dominion Post.
Payne dismissed the whole thing.
"John Raese has proved his ass over the years and this is nothing new," Payne said in a telephone interview Thursday.
Raese - a Republican who has run unsuccessfully a handful of times for elected office - has made sometimes-controversial remarks on the campaign trail. Last year, when he was running for U.S. Senate, Raese compared anti-smoking signs in Monongalia County to a key part of the Holocaust.