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CEO's arrests could jeopardize USF deal



A Tampa educational loan company proposing a multimillion-dollar deal to put its name on the Sun Dome may have its hopes dashed because of a long history of personal arrests of the chief executive officer.

"Absolutely," said Wayne Morgan, the 36-year-old CEO of Academic Financial Services, asked if his arrests being made public could threaten his relationship with USF. "People will look at that and say 'He must be a bad guy.' It's human nature. I always say it's not who you were, it's who you are."

Who Morgan is? He heads a company that specializes in student-loan financing and has about 275 employees. It was in negotiations with Action Sports Media, a company hired by USF to land a title sponsor for the Sun Dome, at a cost of $500,000 a year or more.

What Action Sports Media didn't know until Thursday was that Morgan has a long list of arrests and guilty pleas, most from 1993-96 but some as recent as 2002, according to public records. Records show guilty pleas on charges ranging from breaking and entering and safecracking to larceny and petit theft. He has twice been charged with writing worthless checks, most recently a felony charge in 2002 to which he pleaded no contest and agreed to probation and payment of more than $19,000 in restitution. Other charges, including kidnapping and carrying a concealed weapon in 1994, were later dismissed.

"I was a bad person. I did things I should not have done. ... I was young and dumb. Will I ever do anything like that again? Absolutely not," said Morgan, whose most recent probation ended in April 2005. "I will never be able to put it in my past. It's 2007 and people are asking me about it. I'll always have to talk about it."

Tom Veit, general manager of Action Sports Media in Tampa, said his company's policy is not to run personal background checks, even in high-profile contracts such as a naming-rights agreement. Veit said he investigated Academic Financial Services as a business, got letters of recommendation the Tampa Bay Lightning and Tampa Bay Devil Rays, which AFS has been a sponsor for the past two seasons, and was aware of public honors, such as his being honored by the Tampa Bay Sports Commission with its Distinguished Community Service Award this year.

"Everyone's comments to us in dealing with Wayne Morgan and AFS have been nothing but positive," Veit said.

USF athletic director Doug Woolard, who would have the final say on any contract to award naming rights for USF's basketball arena, is out of town on vacation and could not be reached for comment. Both sides had stressed earlier Thursday that while they were negotiating exclusively, terms had not been finalized and a formal contract could still be months away.

[Last modified: Thursday, May 27, 2010 11:31am]


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