Oracle boss drops £65m Harvard gift

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The Independent US

Larry Ellison, the multibillionaire boss of the software firm Oracle, has pulled out of a pledge to give $115m (£65m) to Harvard University, largely because of the departure of the university's former president, Lawrence Summers.

The donation, for which no formal agreement was ever signed, was to have funded a centre to study the comparative effectiveness of health programmes around the world. But uncertainty over its future became public earlier this month when three senior officials hired by the centre in anticipation of the Ellison endowment were let go.

The planned Ellison Institute for World Health would have employed 130 people. But the Oracle chief executive is understood to have reconsidered the venture after the outspoken Mr Summers resigned in February following a string of controversies that sparked an unprecedented faculty revolt against him.

The fate of the on-off donation had also become entangled with a separate $100m that Mr Ellison will now be donating to his Ellison Medical Foundation, for distribution to various charities in the field.

That follows settlement of an insider trading lawsuit brought against the Oracle chief, relating to the allegedly improper sale of $900m of Oracle stock in 2001. Mr Ellison was ordered by a California court to make a $100m gift to charity and pay legal fees of $22m.

Had it materialised, the $115m would have constituted one of the year's largest individual gifts. It would also have been the biggest received by Harvard. But the setback will have little impact on the finances of Harvard, America's wealthiest and most famous university, whose total endowment tops $26bn. Nor will it be more than a passing blip in the history of the booming US philanthropy business.

It came in the same week that Warren Buffett, the world's second richest man, said he was giving $37bn to charity - including more than $30bn to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation set up by Mr Gates, chairman of Microsoft