UCSD bear sculpture at Qualcomm Institute
Millions of dollars of free publicity and good will have been garnered since cell-phone-chip-making giant Qualcomm, Inc., made the fortuitous 1997 move to pay the City of San Diego a mere $18 million for two decades' worth of naming rights for the former Jack Murphy Stadium in Mission Valley, along with the renaming a nearby street and freeway sign.
"Under the Agreement, the City granted Qualcomm the exclusive right to name the Stadium, agreed to change all identifying and directional signage at the Stadium and within the City limits to 'Qualcomm Stadium,' along with maps, brochures, advertising, and other promotional or informational documents, and to rename 'Stadium Way' to 'Qualcomm Way.'"
Then there was Qualcomm's inside 2011 deal with then-mayor Jerry Sanders, also worked out behind closed doors, to temporarily change the name of the Mission Valley pro-football venue to "Snapdragon Stadium," to promote a new line of Qualcomm's cell-phone chips.
Sanders's fellow Republican city attorney Jan Goldsmith said that the move was illegal, though no action was ever brought against the mayor, who had benefited greatly from the political largesse of Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs.
Records later unearthed by a public records act request showed that the mega-billion-dollar company had agreed to pay the city a "promotional fee" of just $1000 for the Snapdragon deal.
Two days after Goldsmith's memo cautioning that the name change promotion was illegal, Rachel Shira, executive assistant to Sanders, emailed Rodriguez and mayoral chief of staff Julie Dubick: "Per my email this morning, Mayor Sanders is on board, Thanks."
On December 16, came an email from Mary Lewis, the city's chief financial officer, raising questions about the value of the Snapdragon deal to the city. It was addressed to Alex Roth, Aimee Faucett, Natasha Collura, and city chief operating officer Jay Goldstone.
She had heard about the name change after it was announced to the press.
"ls the City being compensated for promoting a specific Qualcomm product?" Lewis wrote. "Is this above and beyond the original naming agreement? This kind of product exposure is worth a considerable amount of money and was this part of the negotiation?"
Qualcomm's latest renaming gambit came to fruition earlier this year at UCSD, when the school's previously named "California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology," or CalIT2 for short, was redesignated the "Qualcomm Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, the UC San Diego Division of CalIT2."
Because that's quite a mouthful even for academics and cell-phone engineers, the complex, paid for with a multimillion-dollar handout from state taxpayers, is now known informally as the Qualcomm Institute.
How CalIT2 came to be in the first place involves a separate tale of local political intrigue, as reported here in January 2004.
The idea...was reportedly cooked up in part by none other than Padres owner John Moores and Richard Lerner, head of La Jolla's Scripps Research Institute, along with Davis chief-of-staff and ex-San Diego Democratic congresswoman Lynn Schenk. As a result, insiders regarded UCSD’s bid as a sure bet and it ultimately received generous funding from the state treasury.
The university spent $57 million for the new headquarters building on the UCSD campus. Over the years since, hundreds of millions more have been spent by California and U.S. taxpayers on salaries, grants, and related expenses.
The push to rename the institute in Qualcomm's honor came in the spring of 2012, according to a series of emails released by UCSD after a request under the public records act.
"Frieder and Ramesh have advanced a request to rename these labs and programs the "Qualcomm Labs @ CalIT2 UC San Diego," wrote assistant vice chancellor for academic affairs Ann Briggs Addo in a May 5, 2012, email to higher-ups.
Ramesh Rao, the head of the institute, is also an engineering professor who occupies the university's "Qualcomm endowed chair in Telecommunications and Engineering Technology." Frieder Seible was then dean of UCSD's Jacobs School of Engineering, named after Irwin Jacobs.
His rationale is that Qualcomm's initial support of $15 [million] when CalIT was initially conceived and its donations of $8.5 [million] since makes Qualcomm deserving of the recognition.
I know there were other industry partners who helped on the development front though I'm sure Q is the big kahuna and my recollection is that the State supported this initiative rather significantly; otherwise I have no other information at this point.
The proposal sped rapidly through the university's chain of command, and UCSD chancellor Pradeep Khosla personally emailed Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs with the good news on December 16.
Good morning, Paul:
I'm pleased to send along this message that I've approved the naming of the Qualcomm-supported Institute at CalIT2 as the Qualcomm Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, the UC San Diego Division of Calit2.
The Institute will be informally known as the "Qualcomm Institute."
I look forward to our ongoing efforts to express our sincere appreciation for your support of UC San Diego. We are most grateful.
All the best. Pradeep
Taxpayers, who shoulder the bulk of the institute's cost, didn't find out about the new name until April of this year, when the university dispatched a news release touting the move.