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Ex-JobsOhio head lands firm $50M deal with Ohio St

CLEVELAND (AP) — An investment fund co-founded by Republican Gov. John Kasich's former jobs czar has landed a lucrative business deal with Ohio State University, whose ex-president is also closely tied to the governor.

Ohio State's financial commitment to the fledgling venture capital fund Drive Capital came in July, shortly after school President Gordon Gee retired and moved into an emeritus role, spokeswoman Gayle Saunders told the Northeast Ohio Media Group (http://bit.ly/H8954L ).

One of the fund's founders was Mark Kvamme, a former Silicon Valley venture capitalist who moved to Ohio in 2011 to lead Kasich's economic development efforts. Kvamme held two previous positions before taking the helm of JobsOhio, the governor's signature private job-creation program. Gee sits on JobsOhio's board.

Kvamme left JobsOhio for the private sector in November. Gee retired as Ohio State president in July after remarks he made disparaging Roman Catholics and Southeastern Conference schools became public. Kasich tapped him Monday to lead a yearlong statewide review of ways to improve the value of higher education.

A Kasich spokesman said the governor did not lobby Ohio State on Kvamme's behalf.

The investment followed a change in policy by Ohio State's board to allow top administrators more leeway over how to invest operating funds. It was not clear who recommended the investment or whether selection was competitive.

Gee told the media group the proposal came to the university while he was president and he was "an enthusiastic supporter."

"I'm very glad the priority of investing in education, certainly research and job-creation that I championed as president (has continued) with my successors," Gee said. "And their support for innovation, as evident by this decision to invest in Drive Capital, enhances these opportunities."

In an email to the media group, Kvamme confirmed the investment but said he couldn't provide details under rules set by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. At $50 million, the investment would make up more than a quarter of what Drive Capital has reported raising so far.

"We believe in the opportunity in Ohio and the Midwest to create world-changing technology companies," Kvamme wrote. "It is important that people here understand our goals and objectives for the region."

Geoff Chatas, the university's chief financial officer, told The Columbus Dispatch the investment "is part of a broader strategy to find ways to increase job creation, commercialize the research findings and discoveries of our professors, and improve Ohio's financial future and have a positive impact on society."

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