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Harvard mega donor Ken Griffin has halted donations to school

FILE PHOTO: Kenneth Griffin at 2011 The Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills

By Svea Herbst-Bayliss

(Reuters) - Billionaire investor Kenneth Griffin, who has donated more than half a billion dollars to Harvard University, has halted his giving to the school over how it handled antisemitism on campus and a broader leadership crisis involving its president.

Griffin, who started trading in his Harvard dormitory before becoming the most profitable hedge fund manager ever, told an audience at the Managed Funds Association conference in Miami on Tuesday that he stopped donations, for now.

"No ... And I've made that clear to members of the corporate board," Griffin said when asked whether he was still supporting his alma mater financially.

Griffin made headlines in April 2023 by donating $300 million to Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences, raising the total amount of his gifts to more than half a billion.

Months later students and alumni criticized Claudine Gay, who had been named Harvard's first black president in 2023, for her handling of demonstrations about the Israel-Hamas conflict and her testimony to Congress about the crisis. Allegations of plagiarism also mounted and Gay resigned earlier this month.

While other alumni, including hedge fund manager Bill Ackman who has given roughly $50 million to Harvard, publicly called for Gay to be removed, Griffin had made no public comments about Harvard before Tuesday.

"Until Harvard makes it very clear that they're going to resume their role as educating young American men and women to be leaders, to be problem solvers, to take on difficult issues, I'm not interested in supporting the institution," Griffin said.

He left open the door to resuming his gifts but made clear changes need to be made in how the school pursues its mission.

Speaking more generally about America's elite universities, Griffin said: "The real question is will (they) get back to their roots of educating American children, young adults, to be the future leaders of our country, or are they going to maintain being lost in the wilderness of microaggressions, a DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) agenda that seems to have no real end game, and just being lost in the wilderness?"

Griffin's Citadel invests $56 billion. In 2022, the firm posted an annual gain of $16 billion, making it the most successful hedge fund of all time, according to LCH Investments.

Harvard is the wealthiest university in the United States with a $50.7 billion endowment but alumni like Ackman have accused it of mismanaging the assets. Griffin's stance now suggests other mega donors may also slow or stop their giving at a time tuition for undergraduates hovers around $80,000 a year and critics say its fees are becoming unaffordable.

(Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss; Editing by Stephen Coates)