span style=”font-size: 120%;”>David Brandon, CEO and chairman of Domino’s Pizza, is running for re-election as University regent, a position he has held since 1998. The Republican regent was the object of intense speculation last year, when he considered and ultimately decided against running first for Michigan governor, then for Debbie Stabenow’s (D-Mich.) seat in the U.S. Senate. Brandon is a frequent contributor to Republican campaigns in the state and recently took the helm of GOP gubernatorial nominee Dick DeVos’s election campaign. He also serves as co-chair of the Champions for Children campaign to fundraise for renovations to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Brandon received his B.A. and teaching certificate from the University in 1974.
The Michigan Daily: Domino’s is the world leader in pizza delivery. Right now it’s number two globally, in terms of overall sales. How does it become the global leader in pizza, period?
David Brandon: We’re growing almost at a rate of a new store a day. This week I’ll be in Chicago clipping the ribbon on the opening of our 8,000th store worldwide. Our goal long-range is to get that to 10,000 and beyond.
TMD: How did you become involved with the Champions for Children campaign?
DB: Mott absolutely saved one of my son’s life, and my other son was not in good shape. I was contacted by the people of the hospital, who knew that I had an interest and a personal connection and asked me if Jan and I would be willing to serve with Lloyd and Laurie Carr as the co-chairs of this. I thought about it for about one second and said “absolutely.” The bottom line is that this hospital serves this region, and this is all about the children and families of this region and having a resource that for the next 50 years can be as important as it has been over the previous 50 years.
TMD: How successful has that campaign been?
DB: Our goal is $50 million. We’re only in the first couple years of a six-year, seven-year campaign, and we’re at $46 million.
TMD: What are the major issues, as you see (them), facing the University right now?
DB: The major issues are clearly economic. When you start talking about multi-billion-dollar budgets, a 2- or 3- or 4- or 5-percent inflation rate a year becomes a big number. You’ve got to figure out ways to offset those inflationary costs with real revenue streams. One of things that we’re really fighting is that these huge buildings that we keep building require a lot of energy to keep them and to cool them, and that energy is becoming incredibly expensive, way outpacing the normal rate of inflation.
TMD: How can the University raise (the) revenue that it needs without shutting the door to qualified students or to less-privileged students?
DB: We’re constantly thinking about those students that can’t pay that price tag and how we have to make sure as we continue to increase that price how we can better support those students in hopes that we do not ever create a circumstance where this place is only for people who have substantial need. The in-state tuition cost to get a degree from the University of Michigan is one of the greatest values in higher education in the country.
TMD: Is higher education being given a high enough priority in the state, given the economic troubles?
DB: No, I don’t think it is. I think the current governor came in and publicly said that universities’ budgets were fat, and she had a view that the university budgets had a lot of extra dollars in them. If in fact one of the greatest economic engines of opportunities we have are institutions of higher education, why aren’t we investing in them?
TMD: The addition of the phrase “gender identity and expression” to the nondiscrimination clause of the University’s bylaws has been a major issue with the LGBT community on campus. The University has argued that these identities are encompassed in the word “sex.” Why not just add the phrase?
DB: I would favor a statement that says the University will not discriminate against anybody. I don’t understand why we continually have to have discussions about who should and who shouldn’t be included, in terms of our nondiscrimination policy, because I think identifying specific special-interest groups or specific entities within the institution almost implies that unless you’re on that list, then somehow we think you should be treated differently than people who are on that list. It should not be about lists.
TMD: Few students are probably aware of your relationship with the former Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler. Can you talk about how he’s influenced you?
DB: Bo is a significant influence on my life. . I would have not been able to attend the University of Michigan had it not been for the football scholarship I received from Bo. I got a chance to observe very up close and personal how a very, very effective leader was able to be successful.
TMD: Isn’t he in part responsible for the field you find yourself in?
DB: A recruiter from Procter & Gamble came on campus and talked to him and described the kind of individual that they were looking for, and he looked at this recruiter and said, “You’ve got to talk to that Brandon kid.” That launched me in a whole new trajectory in terms of my career.
TMD: How will the separate field staff that you’ll have at your disposal make the race different, whereas in past years Republican gubernatorial nominees have only had the GOP staffers to help with the gubernatorial race?
DB: Dick DeVos is not a traditional candidate for governor. I think it’s almost appropriate that he looks at the mold and says, “How do we break this and try to create something that will be better?”
TMD: How are you going to juggle running a gubernatorial campaign, serving as CEO of Domino’s, serving as regent and running your own re-election as well?
DB: Yeah, well, some of those dovetail. (Laughs.)