Stanford Business School dean announces resignation after being accused of sleeping with a fired professor's wife

Garth SalonerscreengrabGarth Saloner, dean of Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, will step down after the current year.

Garth Saloner, dean of Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business (GSB), will step down at the end of the academic year, he announced on Monday.

The announcement comes amid a lawsuit against Saloner and Stanford brought by a fired professor who’s accusing Saloner of sleeping with his wife and harassing him, according to the Wall Street Journal.

That former professor, James Phills, claims Saloner was still involved in making decisions about his employment even though he’d begun a sexual relationship with Phills’ wife,
Deborah Gruenfeld — also a professor at the business school. Phills and Gruenfeld separated in 2012, and Phills was fired two years later.

“As many of you know, the university and I have been vigorously defending a baseless and protracted lawsuit related to a contentious divorce between a current and former member of our faculty,” Saloner wrote in a press release.

“I have become increasingly concerned that the ongoing litigation and growing media interest will distract all of you from the important work that you are doing and unfairly impact this stellar school’s deserved reputation.”

Ethan Baron of Poets & Quants, which covers business schools, wrote a detailed article about the events on Stanford’s campus that told a salacious story about the alleged relationship between the dean of GSB and the professor on campus.

“In the wrongful termination suit, Phills accuses Saloner of railroading him out of the business school while sleeping with his wife,” Baron writes.

“‘Saloner and Plaintiff’s wife Deborah Gruenfeld, who also happens to be Saloner’s subordinate, carried out a clandestine intimate relationship while Saloner was making decisions about Phills’ employment and home loans,’ Phills’s lawyers claim in a May court filing.”

For its part, Stanford says it treated Phills “fairly and equitably,” according to a statement published by CNBC.

“Dr. Phills’ teaching position at Stanford was terminated in 2015 when he failed to return to his university employment after the university had granted him multiple leaves of absence for lucrative opportunities in Silicon Valley, including leaves to work at Apple Inc., beyond what is normally allowed under university policy,” Stanford said.

Saloner was well-liked on campus and an inspiration, according to the Stanford News, which described him as a pioneer in field of economics and e-commerce for his work on network effects.

We have reached out to Stanford University, Garth Saloner, and James Phills, and will update this post when we hear back.

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