BOSTON — The Israeli-born fencing coach at Harvard for the past 20 years was dismissed over the questionable sale of his home to a wealthy businessman whose son was later admitted to the Ivy League university.
Peter Brand was fired following a three-month internal investigation, the school said Tuesday in a statement. Harvard had launched the probe after the sale was first reported in April in the Boston Globe and concluded that Brand violated its conflict-of-interest policy.
Brand was raised on an Israeli kibbutz until emigrating at age 13. He and his wife sold their home in May 2016 to Jie “Jack” Zhao of Maryland for $989,500 — hundreds of thousands of dollars above its assessed value of $549,300, the Globe reported.
Zhao resold the uninhabited home 17 months later at a loss of $324,000 while his son was a high school junior interested in attending Harvard, where his older brother was a member of Brand’s strong fencing squad. The younger brother now attends Harvard and is on the fencing team.
The transactions struck the town’s assessor as unusual, the assessor told the Globe in April.
A federal grand jury is investigating the sale. It is not part of the indictments in the nationwide college admissions scandal.
Zhao told the Globe in April that he bought the home as a favor to Brand, who had become a friend, to ease the burden of Brand’s 12-mile commute to the school. He denied it had any bearing on his son’s interest in Harvard, noting that his son was an excellent student and successful fencer.
Brand denies any wrongdoing, according to his lawyer, Douglas Brooks. Harvard determined that Brand committed “no recruiting irregularities.”
Brand guided the team to notable achievements, including sending athletes to the Olympics and leading Harvard to its first NCAA team championship.