Billionaire Len Blavatnik and his family foundation have paused their expansive funding of Harvard University as it backs President Claudine Gay despite accusations she stood by as students spewed antisemitic rhetoric on campus, according to a report.
Blavatnik will halt his funding until the university directly addresses what he sees as rampant antisemitism at the school, a person with direct knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg.
The Ukrainian-born British-American businessman turned philanthropist and his wife Emily have donated at least $270 million to the Ivy League institution with some $200 million directly benefiting the medical school.
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The Harvard Crimson reports Blavatnik is the most high profile donor to date to end a philanthropic relationship with Harvard amid fierce criticism of Gay’s response to the Israel-Hamas war and her testimony during a congressional hearing earlier this month.
The story detailed the donor revolt now building speed and its expected impact:
Blavatnik’s decision is another major blow to Harvard’s fundraising efforts, with several major donors previously pledging to end their relationships with the University over its widely criticized initial response to the fighting in Israel and Gaza.
The growing donor revolt threatens to put a strain on Harvard’s finances, as philanthropy accounts for 45 percent of the University’s annual revenue.
The Harvard Business School alumnus’s temporary severance of his relationship with Harvard is also a significant blow to Gay, who has weathered crisis after crisis during her first semester in office.
As president, Gay serves as Harvard’s de facto fundraiser-in-chief — a role that will become much harder to fulfill if the University’s most generous donors stop giving.
In October, the Wexner Foundation ended its relationship with Harvard after 34 years on the back of the continued antisemitism scandal rocking the institution.
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Israeli billionaires Idan and Batia Ofer also quit the Harvard Kennedy School’s executive board in response to what they described as the university’s insufficient condemnation of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.
The Crimson previously reported the university’s gift officers have become increasingly worried about the financial outlook and say they have been receiving many calls from donors ending or reducing their contributions.