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California and the West

Ellison's Big Gift Still Just a Pledge

The Oracle CEO hasn't fulfilled a year-old promise to pay Harvard $115 million for a health center, the school says.

June 22, 2006|From Bloomberg News

Oracle Corp. Chief Executive Larry Ellison hasn't delivered a $115-million donation to Harvard University more than a year after he first promised it.

The university doesn't have a timetable for when Ellison will donate the money he pledged to the School of Public Health, Harvard Alumni Affairs and Development spokeswoman Sarah Friedell said Wednesday.

"As of today, the gift agreement between Harvard and Mr. Ellison has not been signed," Friedell said.

Ellison offered the money to Harvard to set up a center to monitor global health and create five professorships. Since then the school and Ellison, the 15th-richest person in the world according to Forbes magazine, have been trying to complete the agreement.

The Financial Times reported Wednesday that the planned Ellison Institute for World Health, which was to employ 130 people by next summer, has been put on hold and three senior managerial staff who had been hired have been discharged.

In 2005, the Chronicle of Philanthropy named Ellison the seventh most generous donor in the U.S. based on the $115-million pledge to Harvard.

Ellison first started talking to Harvard about a gift in May 2004, said Christopher Murray, 43, a professor and director of the Harvard University Global Health Initiative.

"Over the course of the next 10 months, we worked through the details" with Ellison, he said.

Murray said in March 2005, he and Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers "met with Ellison at his home, at which point Ellison shook hands and said that we would go ahead with this plan."

The Ellison Medical Foundation in Bethesda, Md., is supposed to handle the grant. Executive Director Richard L. Sprott was out of the country and unavailable for comment.

Murray said he was hopeful that Ellison would come through with the money for the center, which would measure the effectiveness of healthcare. Without a benchmark of effectiveness, it would be harder to improve healthcare around the world.

"The last direct communication from Ellison was in November, when he reiterated his commitment to the vision and mission of the institute," Murray said. "Since that time, however, we have been unable to communicate directly with Larry Ellison."

The negotiations have occurred during a time of transition at Harvard. In February, Summers announced that he would step down this month as the university's president and would be replaced temporarily by former Harvard President Derek Bok.

A spokeswoman for Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Oracle didn't immediately return a call seeking comment.

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