Billionaire megadonor suspends donations to Harvard

Billionaire megadonor suspends donations to Harvard

Dec 22,2023
New York CNN  — 

Billionaire Len Blavatnik is joining the list of frustrated Harvard donors closing their checkbooks to the university.

Blavatnik’s family foundation has suspended donations to Harvard in the wake of President Claudine Gay’s disastrous testimony before Congress, a person familiar with the matter confirmed to CNN. Blavatnik is holding back donations to Harvard until the university addresses antisemitism on campus, the source said.

The Harvard Business School graduate, whose fortune is estimated at $32 billion by Forbes, has a history of generous giving to the Ivy League school as well as to support Jewish causes. Blavatnik’s family foundation has donated at least $270 million to Harvard, the source said. Born in Ukraine and Raised in Russia, Blavatnik made his early fortune on Investments in Russian oil companies, according to Forbes.

News of Blavatnik’s decision to pause giving to Harvard was first reported by Bloomberg. Harvard did not comment on the news. Blavatnik’s foundation declined to comment.

Harvard and other universities have faced a backlash from some donors following their response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel. Later that month, more than 1,600 Harvard alumni vowed to withhold donations until stronger action was taken to fight antisemitism on campus.

That backlash grew in intensity after Gay and the presidents of the University of Pennsylvania and MIT struggled to answer questions from lawmakers at a hearing earlier this month about whether calls for the genocide of Jews violates university rules. Facing calls for her firing, Gay apologized for her testimony.

Blavatnik’s decision deals a significant blow to Harvard. In 2018, he promised to give Harvard Medical School a record-setting $200 million.

Blavatnik, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2017, has a history of giving money to universities as well as politicians. He reportedly donated money to both Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign as the Trump inaugural committee.

The news comes as Harvard continues to face pressure over its handling of antisemitism and as Gay has come under fire for plagiarism. Harvard said on Thursday that Gay will issue corrections to her 1997 PhD. dissertation to address “inadequate citation.”

Last week, Harvard disclosed figures that showed early applications fell by 17% to four-year lows.

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