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Una vida no es fuerte sino cuando se ha consagrado a conquistar su ideal por sencillo que sea. Eugenio María de Hostos.

lunes, 13 de abril de 2009

Weill Gives Cornell $170 Million, Well Ahead of Schedule

Sanford I. Weill, the man who built Citigroup, had not planned to donate the money until his death. He had already given more than $200 million to revamp the medical school at Cornell University into a more modern, competitive and research-focused institution (it has borne his name for a decade). At 76, Mr. Weill thought his third and final nine-digit gift could wait.

But the university, like so many nonprofit institutions, has recently found itself in rough financial straits: its endowment — $5.39 billion last June — has lost more than a third of its value, its $2.9 billion annual budget has a deficit of 8 percent, and donations are down.

So Mr. Weill, heart still beating, sent $170 million in December and January to Weill Cornell Medical College, where he serves as board chairman, he and university officials revealed on Monday.

In doing so, Mr. Weill said, he hopes to send a message about charity in a time of need, but he may also be trying to burnish an uncertain legacy after the collapse of the company he built into the nation’s most valuable financial institution was averted only by a huge federal bailout.

“The statement we’re trying to make is that this is a really important time to give money, whatever it’s for,” Mr. Weill said from the lavish spread of offices overlooking Central Park where he has worked on philanthropic ventures since stepping down as Citigroup’s chairman in April 2006.

Mr. Weill would not say how much of his personal fortune had disappeared with the decline of Citigroup’s stock, describing it as “a lot” and adding, “We’re not crying poor.” In March, Forbes magazine estimated he had lost $600 million of a $1.4 billion fortune.

“Nobody is worth what they were, except liars,” he said. “So we have all felt pain, but we all can do more and doing something in a time like this is much more important.”

Cornell’s president, David J. Skorton, said he approached Mr. Weill last year to ask him to give some of the $250 million he had pledged upon his death immediately so that the university could proceed with plans to build a new medical research building by 2013. They settled on $170 million.

“The value of the cash right now is much greater to us,” said Dr. Antonio M. Gotto Jr., dean of the medical school. “We are proud of the Weill name,” he added. (The school was renamed for Mr. Weill and his wife, Joan, after their initial $100 million gift in 1998.) “Their philanthropy has totally changed this medical college.”

A Brooklyn native and the son of Polish immigrants, Mr. Weill graduated from Cornell in 1955 before a Wall Street career that culminated in the 1998 merger that formed Citigroup. He successfully pushed for the repeal of a Depression-era law separating commercial and investment banks to create a global financial supermarket that combined investment banking, commercial banking, insurance and fund management. Now that is widely seen as sowing the seeds not only for the company’s problems but contributing to the larger downward spiral of the economy.

Mr. Weill said that it had been frustrating to watch what happened to Citigroup, but that he was content focusing on his charitable activities — he is also chairman of the board at Carnegie Hall — and his family. He said he plans to give away most of the money he has left — “Shrouds don’t have pockets,” he noted — and would prefer to do it while he is still alive.

“Legacies are for other people to decide,” he mused. “But my activities in the not-for-profit center seem to have a lot more staying power than what I accomplished in the for-profit arena.”

April 7, 2009
Weill Gives Cornell $170 Million, Well Ahead of Schedule

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