Looks like Sandy Weill will have to be okay with having only two Cornell institutions named after him. The New York Times just outed the Big Red enthusiast responsible for a $350 million anonymous donation towards Cornell and Technion’s proposed applied sciences campus. The individual is 80-year-old Charles F. Feeney who made his billions running the Duty Free Shoppers Group. The donation was made through Atlantic Philanthropies, an organization founded by Mr. Feeney.
Well that explains the duty free joke during today’s presser announcing Cornell and Technion as the winner. Early in the presentation, Technion president Peretz Lavie said he was told on Friday afternoon to buy a ticket for New York. When Betabeat asked whether that meant the decision wasn’t made until Friday (after Stanford dropped out of the race), Mayor Bloomberg quipped:
“The president of the Technion—I don’t want to brag for him—but he was in Sweden where one of his faculty members just received a Nobel Prize, so if you’re going from Israel to Sweden you might as well keep going, hopefully he’ll spend a little bit of money and buy some things to take back.”
Wink-wink. Okay, now we get it!
The donation was announced Friday afternoon, although sources say it had been in the works for awhile. It’s not clear whether part of Mr. Feeney’s donation went towards the $150 million venture capital fund announced as part of the campus initiative at today’s press conference. Mayor Bloomberg also revealed that Cornell received the full $100 million grant allocated for the project.
According to the Times, Mr. Feeney may know a little something about the ramen-eating, lean startup lifestyle espoused by the beneficiaries of his donation:
“He flies coach, owns neither a home nor a car, and wears a $15 watch.”