British Sports Mogul None Too Keen on Harvard’s “Community Values” of “Integrity” and “Honesty” [Updated]

In early October, Outside published a 5,000+ word exposé of Tough Mudder, the adventure racing company founded in 2010 by Will Dean, an alumnus of Harvard Business School. The story is well worth reading in full for journalist Scott Keneally‘s thorough assessment of the company’s rapid growth over the past two years. (Update: there’s also a trailer!)

What really snagged our attention, however, was Keneally’s survey of allegations that Will Dean stole the idea of Tough Mudder while he was a student at HBS.

The evidence of wrongdoing hinges on a Harvard-endorsed field study Dean performed at Tough Guy Limited, in the United Kingdom, where Dean is from. In a nut: after completing the field study, Dean submitted to Harvard and Billy Wilson (the proprietor of Tough Guy Limited) two different reports of his work:

In December, when Dean completed his report, he submitted one version to Harvard and a slightly modified one to Wilson. Both described the potential for more events, but the version he sent to Wilson omitted key recommendations for how he might immediately expand. Rather, he suggested Wilson adopt a wait-and-see approach. Wilson was unimpressed with the report, and the two men fell out of touch.

It’s sort of like The Social Network (minus the Trent Reznor soundtrack) — except that Harvard eventually took action against Will Dean.

Keneally discusses an internal Harvard investigation that arose from a complaint Billy Wilson sent to the biz school’s faculty less than two weeks after Tough Mudder staged its first event in the spring of 2010. We recently got our hands on the text of the investigation’s final ruling, which Outside quotes from, and it’s actually a bit more unsparing than the magazine lets on. Read the rest of this entry »