The scenario brings back strong memories of the debacle at London Business School when, in December 2008, dean Robin Buchanan was effectively ousted from the school by faculty after just 16 months in the job. Like Prof Wells, Mr Buchanan was deemed a “non-academic dean”. Insead, the other top-ranked European school with a businessman rather than an academic as dean, is following a similar pattern. Frank Brown will step down as dean there in 2011 at the latest, at the end of his five year term.
Prof Wells ruffled faculty feathers at IMD from the start, principally by introducing an anglo-American management team - of the five senior positions, two went to Irish professors, one to a British professor and a fourth to an American. In particular, no French or Belgian professors were represented in the line-up, although they are numerous on the faculty. Then, like Mr Brown at Insead, he has faced tough management decisions as a result of the economic crisis - both Insead and IMD earn a high proportion of their revenues through executive short programmes, which have been severely hit over the past two years.
A further complication for IMD has been the decision by Peter Lorange, the former president of IMD, who held the job for 15 years and virtually built the school from scratch, to set up his own business school close by. The Lorange Institute, in Zurich was set up in July 2009 and, like IMD, will focus on executive students.
According to IMD, Prof Wells decided that stepping aside was in the best interests of the school. IMD is expected to announce the name of an interim dean next week.