Dr. Robert C. Robbins, finalist for the job of University of Arizona president, speaks during a question-and-answer session on March 8, 2017, in Tucson.

Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Star/

The board hiring the University of Arizona’s next president is launching contract negotiations with its top pick, Dr. Robert C. Robbins of Texas.

The decision by the Arizona Board of Regents marks one of the last steps in Robbins’ eventual employment as the UA’s 22nd president.

“Negotiating a contract for the next president and ensuring a smooth transition are crucial next steps,” board Chair Greg Patterson said in a news release following a Monday afternoon vote at regents headquarters in Phoenix.

Regents expect to vote on Robbins’ contract and formally announce him as the new president during a two-day board meeting at the UA on April 6-7.

Robbins, who earns more than $1.2 million a year as president and CEO of Texas Medical Center, may be the highest-paid presidential finalist the regents have ever negotiated with.

His current compensation is roughly double that of UA President Ann Weaver Hart, whose pay package totals $670,000 this year. Robbins has said he expects to take a “major pay cut” at the UA.

Hart announced last year that she would step down as president when her contract ends in June 2018, but the regents decided to replace her ahead of time.

Robbins, a former chief of cardiology at Stanford University’s medical school, is one of two finalists the regents announced Feb. 28 to replace Hart. The other finalist, Arizona State University executive Sethuraman Panchanathan, was eliminated a week later.

Contact reporter Carol Ann Alaimo at 573-4138 or calaimo@tucson.com.

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