Related Pages: About Chai Ling and Jenzabar | News Accounts
The Boston Globe, 25 July 1999, byline: James Bandler, Globe Correspondent
Not long after Chai Ling launched her Internet start-up venture, her publicist boasted that she was ready for the rough-and-tumble business world, having led "thousands of students against a communist government more ruthless than Microsoft." What the publicist didn't mention was that Jenzabar.com, the former Beijing student leader's company, was already under fire, this time from the legal guns at the Harvard Business School.
For months, the dispute was waged politely and quietly, with Harvard's lawyers contending that Jenzabar was trying to capitalize on the business school's blue-chip reputation. The business school's lawyers demanded that Jenzabar stop posting a claim on its Web site that the Cambridge-based company's main product had been designed by the same technowizards who designed the business school's intranet system. ... Now, the dispute is out in the open.
"The Harvard Business School name stands for excellence and integrity," said Loretto Crane, a business school spokeswoman. "It's not surprising that people want to leverage some sort of relationship with it. It's also not surprising that the school is concerned when it's used inappropriately."
... The dispute has been embarrassing for Jenzabar's team, which includes many politically connected individuals, including former Massachusetts Treasurer Joe Malone, the company's director of development. Legal counsel is provided by former governor William F. Weld and his law firm, according to a Jenzabar spokesman. The company's chairman is Chai's fiance, millionaire Robert Maginn, who lost a race last year to succeed Malone as treasurer.
... The controversy started in May. The business school received a call from an information technology manager at SUNY-Buffalo who said a Jenzabar sales representative had told her flatly that the company had developed its intranet system at the business school.
When business school officials logged onto Jenzabar's Web site, they discovered that Jenzabar stated that its "core application" was "developed by the technology leaders who also developed the award-winning Harvard Business School intranet system."
That's quite a stretch, business school officials say.
"It's a collection of half-truths that ultimately portray something false and mislead the public," a business school source said. Another business school official described the role of any Jenzabar team members in the development of the business school intranet as "very minor to peripheral."
But in a written statement, a spokesman for Jenzabar said three individuals who did substantial work on the $11 million Harvard Business School intranet also worked on Jenzabar.com's "core application."
One of them, a graphic designer, is currently working full time at Jenzabar.com, according to Jenzabar. But in an interview, the graphic designer described his role in the design of the business school intranet as small.
A Jenzabar spokesman said the company acted promptly to correct any misimpressions, but business school officials said it was not until a few weeks ago - nearly two months after Harvard lawyers objected - that the questioned claims were removed from the company's Web site.
The Web site now states that "Chai's experience as an MBA student with the Harvard Business School intranet convinced her to bring this technology to the higher-education community across the nation and around the world."
Today, Jenzabar has contracts with six schools using Jenzabar software, according to a Jenzabar spokesman.
Pat Suozzi, director of library and information services at St. Michael's College in Vermont, said Jenzabar representatives gave her the impression that the key people involved in the Jenzabar project were on "the team at the Harvard Business School that developed that whole [intranet] system." ... Told about the dispute between Harvard and Jenzabar, Suozzi said: "I'm certainly disappointed they would give the impression of a connection when there wasn't. That certainly makes us uncomfortable." ...
The Boston Globe (page B1), 07/25/99. © Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company.
Update: The Long Bow Group has received a document from a lawyer employed by Jenzabar stating that "Jenzabar and Harvard resolved any issues between them in or about 2000."This web page is the sole responsibility of the Long Bow Group, and is in no way affiliated with or sponsored by Jenzabar, Inc.