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London Business School has received the largest single donation to a UK business school, with a gift of £25m from Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer. Mr Ofer, who moved to London earlier this year, graduated with an MBA from the school in the 1980s.
The money will be used to refurbish LBS’s proposed new campus buildings in Old Marylebone Town Hall, London, which the school acquired in 2012. The buildings are already vacant and work on the refurbishment will begin in November. The two buildings will be renamed the Sammy Ofer Centre, after the donor’s late father.
LBS dean Sir Andrew Likierman describes the gift as in “a completely different league” from any previous donation to the school. “This is a game-changing event,” he says.
The gift follows swiftly on the heels of a £10m donation to LBS from South African billionaire Nathan Kirsh, made just a month ago, and earmarked to bolster the school’s endowment. At the time, this was the largest donation to the school.
Donations to UK business schools are increasing. In March, hedge fund Brevan Howard gave £20.1m to Imperial College Business School to set up a research centre in financial economics, at the time the largest single gift to a UK business school. And in June, the Pershing Square Foundation announced a gift of £4.5m to Saïd Business School at Oxford University. Wafic Saïd, the entrepreneur, gave a £20m naming gift to the school on its establishment in 1996.
However, all these donations pale into insignificance against donations given to US business schools. In September, the Ross school at the University of Michigan announced that real estate developer Stephen Ross had given a further $100m to the business school on top of a $100m naming gift in 2004. But it is University of Chicago MBA alumnus David Booth who holds the record as the most generous donor having gifted $300m to his alma mater in 2008.
Today LBS is also launching a five-year fundraising campaign in an attempt to secure £100m. Including the £25m from Mr Ofer, the school has already raised nearly £59m towards this target. Sir Andrew is clearly happy with progress so far. “We have never done a fundraising campaign before, so we had no idea what would happen.”
Of the £100m, £40m will be allocated to building projects, £28m to research funding and £18m for scholarships to attract top students to the school. The remaining funds will be invested in technology. “All these things are not about paying the gas bills, they are about maintaining the quality,” says Sir Andrew.
In particular, the school plans to double the number of student scholarships to LBS, says Sir Andrew. “We are well behind what the big US competition can do. Above all, we want to get the best people to LBS.”
Alumnus Mr Ofer says the project is “an important step towards ensuring the school can continue to grow and prosper...creating new generations of leaders who can address the challenges of business and wider society”.
He adds; “One of the goals of the Idan and Batia Ofer Foundation is to ensure the next generation of Israeli entrepreneurs is equipped to cope with the challenges of globalisation. London Business School is at the forefront of helping to meet these challenges.”
Mr Ofer, who is worth an estimated $6.5bn, is co-heir to a shipping fortune and holds a majority stake in the country’s largest listed company, Israel Corp. Israel’s richest man faced criticism in his home country this year for his planned relocation to London, where his family has a history of charitable donation.
In 2008, shipping magnate Sammy Ofer donated £20m to the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich and previously contributed towards the restoration of the Cutty Sark, following a fire in 2007. In July this year, the family foundation of Eyal Ofer, Idan Ofer’s brother, donated £10m towards development at Tate Modern, London’s most visited art gallery.
The Sammy Ofer Centre is expected to open during the 2016 – 2017 academic year and will increase the teaching space at LBS by 70 per cent.