(Bloomberg) -- Stephen Schwarzman gave the University of Oxford its largest donation since at least the Renaissance, even though the Blackstone Group LP co-founder never studied there.
The 150 million pounds ($188 million) contribution will help pay for a new humanities building and the creation of an institute to study the ethics of artificial intelligence, Oxford said in a statement. The Schwarzman Centre will be within the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, just north of the city center, and will feature a 500-seat concert hall and 250-seat auditorium.
The ethics institute “won’t just use the humanities, which are an unusual asset of Oxford,” Schwarzman said in a Bloomberg TV interview Wednesday. “We’ll use the other major parts of the university. If you can bring all that to bear, we’ll have better outcomes.”
The private equity billionaire studied at Yale University and then got an MBA from Harvard Business School. He emerged as a major philanthropist in 2008 with a $100 million gift to the New York Public Library. In October, he gave $350 million to help establish a college of computing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His name also will be on a campus center at Yale, and he created the Schwarzman Scholars program at Tsinghua University in Beijing to educate future global leaders about China.
The size of the donation is unusual for U.K. universities, whose fundraising efforts trail their counterparts in the U.S. When hedge fund manager David Harding gave 100 million pounds to Cambridge University in February, it was at the time the biggest single private gift to a U.K. college from a British philanthropist. The nation’s universities have collectively received about $1 billion a year on average from donors since 2007, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Schwarzman’s gift exceeds the 75 million pounds that British venture capitalist Michael Moritz donated to Oxford in 2012. Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, hold the title for the biggest private donation to a U.K. university after giving $210 million to Cambridge in 2001 to fund a scholarship program.
Schwarzman, 72, is worth $15.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Since founding Blackstone in 1985 with former Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. boss Peter Peterson, he’s collected more than $5 billion alone from a combination of stock sales, dividends and compensation. Blackstone had more than $500 billion of assets under management at the end of March, according to its website.
Teaching in Oxford dates back to at least 1096, according to the university’s website. It was formally recognized by the early 13th century and has educated 27 British prime ministers, including Theresa May and her potential successor Boris Johnson. Oxford has an endowment fund with almost 3.5 billion pounds of assets under management.
The donation is designed to also launch a fundraising campaign. Schwarzman said Brexit won’t affect the work his gift is intended to foster.
“Things in the short term are not nearly as important as what we’re trying to do in the long term,” he said. “From my perspective on this gift, what’s important is we set up the right structure for 100 years, 200 years.”
--With assistance from Francine Lacqua.
To contact the reporters on this story: Ben Stupples in London at firstname.lastname@example.org;Heather Perlberg in Washington at email@example.com
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