Billionaire Len Blavatnik reportedly suspends donations to Harvard

 December 24, 2023

As controversy continues to swirl around Harvard University and its president, Claudine Gay, billionaire donor Len Blavatnik has decided to suspend contributions to the institution due to concerns about antisemitism on campus, as Just the News reports.

Tensions began to rise when, during a recent hearing of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) questioned Gay about whether on-campus activists calling for genocide of Jews was a violation of the school's code of conduct.

Gay prevaricated, suggesting that her answer was dependent on “context,” sparking a firestorm that has yet to abate, despite her subsequent apology.

A Ukrainian-born Jewish businessman with British and American roots, Blavatnik boasts an estimated net worth of $31.8 billion, according to Forbes.

Fox Business reported that Blavatnik, through a family foundation, has given over $270 million to Harvard over a span of years.

He is also well-known for contributing millions to a host of Jewish-related charities, and while Blavatnik himself has not issued any demands in exchange for the resumption of his philanthropic efforts at the school, he is said to have real concerns about the safety of Jewish students at Harvard.

Though Blavatnik's decision was reportedly revealed to CNN by an unnamed source, the family foundation's own website has not made mention of any changes to its philanthropic roster.

The source who spoke to CNN did not that Blavatnik has not foreclosed the possibility of returning to the fold at Harvard, though that is not the case of other prominent donors who have split with the institution in recent weeks.

Among Gay's most outspoken critics is billionaire investor and Harvard graduate Bill Ackman, who has been vocal in his insistence that the president's tenure at the helm of the school must come to an end.

Ackman has asserted that Gay's failure to appropriately address campus antisemitism has resulted in the loss of over $1 billion in contributions.

Writing to the schools governing board, Ackman declared that Gay “has done more damage to the reputation” of Harvard than anyone else in the institution's 500-year lifespan.

“President Gay's failures have led to billions of dollars of cancelled, paused, and withdrawn donations to the university. I am personally aware of more than a billion dollars of terminated donations from a small group of Harvard's most generous Jewish and non-Jewish alumni,” Ackman said.

Taking his criticisms even further, Ackman argued that Gay was only hired to the top post at Harvard due to the school's devotion to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.

Ackman also took aim at the entire DEI concept, suggesting that Harvard's Office of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging should be scuttled, given that it is “a major contributing source of discriminatory practices on campus and highly damaging to the culture and sense of community at Harvard,” but whether a continued slide in donations from people like Blavatnik will be enough to fuel real change, only time will tell.