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The Big Gift


As the very rich get incomprehensibly richer, there’s been a race to the top for reputation-polishing noblesse oblige. Gone are the days when glass heiress Alice Tully could be remembered for her $4.5 million gift to a chamber-music hall—the new threshold for making a mark is $100 million. George Soros recently gave $100 million to both Human Rights Watch and the Climate Policy Initiative. And in the last few weeks, Henry Kravis and Mark Zuckerberg each announced $100 million gifts. Paulette Maehara, of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, notes that while the recession has affected most giving, “the people with extraordinary wealth don’t have that problem.”

Henry Kravis
Co-founder of the private-equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.
Columbia Business School, $100 million. Given October 5, 2010.
Pays for: Two new B-school buildings slated for Columbia’s $6.3 billion, seventeen-acre Manhattanville expansion. One of the buildings will be named for Kravis. It’s the largest-ever donation to the school, by a factor of four.
Distracts from: The eighties.

Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook mogul.
Newark Public Schools, $100 million. Given September 24, 2010.
Pays for: Teacher salaries and the expansion of Newark charter schools. Zuckerberg will get the cash by selling privately held Facebook shares and dole it out over the next five years, supplementing the current budget by about 3 percent a year.
Distracts from:The Social Network.

David Koch
Koch Industries honcho.
Pays for: A full renovation of the theater, which is home to both the New York City Ballet and City Opera. It’s now called the David H. Koch Theater.
Distracts from: His support of the tea party.

Ken Langone
Co-founder of the Home Depot.
NYU Medical Center, $100 million, twice: once in 1999, again in 2008.
Pays for: The campus has been renamed the NYU Elaine A. and Kenneth G. Langone Medical Center.
Distracts from: War on Eliot Spitzer and financial regulation.

Stephen Schwarzman
Co-founder of the Blackstone Group.
New York Public Library, $100 million. Given March 2008.
Pays for: The library system’s $1 billion expansion and renovation project. The 42nd Street edifice has been rebranded the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building; his name appears five times on it. (He says that was their idea.)
Distracts from: That big birthday party.

Leonard Lauder
Cosmetics heir.
Whitney Museum of American Art, $131 million. Given March 2008.
Pays for: The museum’s total endowment prior to the donation was $195 million. The gift stipulated that the museum not sell its current building.
Distracts from: Nothing really. He’s long supported the Whitney.

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