Columbian gold! Kluge donates $400 million
Columbia University will announce later today that billionaire former Charlottesville resident John Kluge is giving his alma mater one of the biggest gifts– if not the very biggest– in the history of higher education. According to the Wall Street Journal, two sources familiar with the donation say it's at least $400 million and could be as high as $600 million. The New York Times reports that the gift is to come from Kluge's estate upon his death and that it's intended for student aid and graduate fellowships.
The German immigrant received his B.A. in Economics from Columbia in 1937 and has repeatedly told interviewers that he profited during his college years by playing poker.
By the 1980s, he'd taken over a once publicly held company called Metromedia in a leveraged buyout and assisted the launch of what becamethe Fox network by selling off its once-independent television stations. Metromedia eventually owned the Harlem Globetrotters, two chains of steakhouses (Bonanza and Ponderosa), and thousands of billboards.
As for Kluge himself, by the end of the 1980s, he topped Forbes' annual list of the richest Americans with around $7 billion. Last year, he ranked 25th on that same list with an estimated personal worth of $9.1 billion.
The gift is part of a long history of philanthropy for Kluge, especially when it comes to Columbia. Previously, he had donated $110 million for the Kluge Scholars program, which puts 40 to 60 members of each class through the Ivy League university.
Locally, he donated 7,378 acres of Albemarle countryside, including his occasional home, Morven Farm (he actually lives in Palm Beach, Florida), to the University of Virginia in June 2001. With an estimated value of $45 million, it was the largest gift in the University's history. In February 2002, Dave Matthews purchased 1,261 acres of that land for $5.3 million for farming.