Author: Andrew Ross Sorkin (@andrewrsorkin)

Article: “N.Y.U. Crisis in Abu Dhabi Stretches to Wall Street,” May 26, 2014 10:14 pm

Grade: C

College professors teach their students that written arguments must be based on cited evidence. Depending on the field, that evidence can take the form of statistics, quotations from texts, first-hand accounts, archival materials, or scientific data. Students are told to check not only their spelling and grammar before submitting a paper, but also their facts. Indeed, they probably should check facts before checking the other things.

Mr. Sorkin’s article, which focuses on NYU trustee Khaldoon al Mubarak, is marred by three errors of fact.

Luckily, Mr. Sorkin — or his editors — caught the most egregious error, in which he confused two football teams (that’s soccer for you in the USA) in the English Premier League: Manchester United and Manchester City. Mr. Al Mubarak was initially identified — erroneously — as the chairman of the former.

Thank goodness, no Manchester fans of either stripe seem to be readers of Mr. Sorkin’s blog. Making that mistake is a little bit like confusing the Yankees and the Mets.

Screenshot 2014-05-29 16.50.24

Unfortunately, in correcting that error, Mr. Sorkin repeated another error: that Mr. Al Mubarak’s firm was hired as the general contractor for the construction of  NYU’s campus in Abu Dhabi.

That’s patently false. Mr. Al Mubarak is the Group Chief Executive Officer & Managing Director of Mubadala, an investment and development company whose mandate is to assist the diversification of Abu Dhabi’s economy. Its relation to the NYUAD Saadiyat Campus is this: it is the client.

NYU and the Abu Dhabi government are partners in the creation of NYU Abu Dhabi, and Mubadala is the entity responsible for getting the campus built as part of that arrangement. Mubadala therefore hired a general contractor, which happens to be Al-Futtaim Carillion. If you click on the “New York University” link listed under “Major Projects” on the AFC website, you get this screen, which pretty much spells it out:

Screenshot 2014-05-29 17.01.29

Since I’m assuming that Mr. Sorkin, a respected business journalist, knows the difference between a client and a contractor, I’m assuming he just didn’t bother to check his facts (just a few clicks on Google, Mr. Sorkin) before posting his piece. Anyone who had read any of the compliance reports submitted by Mott McDonald about the NYUAD project wouldn’t have made this mistake either (those reports probably should have been part of Mr. Sorkin’s homework too).

The third mistake is embarrassing, but perhaps forgivable if we grant that political nuance isn’t Mr. Sorkin’s forte. The article refers to Mr. Al Mubarak as “chairman of Abu Dhabi’s governing executive council.” In fact (as his Mubadala bio tells us), Mr. Al Mubarak is “Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Affairs Authority (EAA), which provides strategic policy advice to the Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, of which he is also a member.” The “chairman of Abu Dhabi’s governing executive council” (as Mr. Sorkin  puts it) is the Crown Prince, Sheikh Mohamed.

Call me a pedant for wanting my journalists to get their facts straight, but this last mistake is a little bit like asserting that John Kerry runs the Executive Branch of the U.S. government.

I’m waiting for the rewrite, but so far none seems to be forthcoming.