Wharton Alum Gives $100 Million To CBS

Ronald Perelman

Ronald Perelman

Columbia Business School today (May 2) announced that Wharton alum Ronald O. Perelman has pledged $100 million to Columbia Business School.  The school said the gift will be used to develop a new facility that will strengthen the School’s innovations and programs on the university’s new Manhattanville campus.

It is the fourth largest gift ever given to a business school, tying the $100 million pledge made to Columbia Business School by investor Henry Kravis in 2010 and the naming gift to the University of Michigan’s Ross School made by Stephen Ross in 2006. The largest business school gift ever is the $300 million pledge made to the University of Chicago’s business school by alumnus David Booth in 2008.

In recognition of Perelman’s generosity, the business school will name one of its two buildings on the new campus the Ronald O. Perelman Center for Business Innovation. The school said the building will be situated opposite The Henry R. Kravis Building.

“Ronald is attracted to helping New York, where he lives, and finding places where he really believes in the mission,” Glenn Hubbard, dean of Columbia Business School, told Poets&Quants in an interview. “He didn’t come to me with an interest in a building. He was persuaded in the innovation mission of the school. The building is an essential part of that transformation.”

Hubbard has now raised $460 million toward the $600 million cost for the school’s new business school campus which is not expected to open until early 2018. Since becoming dean of the business school in July of 2004, Hubbard has raised an extraordinary $730 million, making him one of the most successful academic fundraisers in history.

Hubbard said he has known Perelman for several years, but it was only over the last year that the two began discussion the possibility of a gift. “He and I had conversations about what we were going to do and it clicked for him,” says Hubbard. “We had so many discussions about it, but I do remember one dinner where he said ‘I really want to do this.’ That felt good. We still have more to do but it’s a big help.”

What makes Perelman’s generosity to Columbia especially unusual is the fact that he earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School in 1964 and his master’s from Wharton in 1966. Wharton figured early and prominently in the master investor’s career. His first major business deal famously occurred during his freshman year in 1961 when he and his father bought the Esslinger Brewery for $800,000. They sold it three years later for a $1 million profit. Perelman was one of the most successful users of the high-yield debt (junk) bond market. His 1985 takeover bid for cosmetics giant Revlon was financed through Wharton alum Michael Milken and became one of the best-known battles in American corporate history.

Perelman, however, has been a longtime member of the Columbia Business School community and has served on its Board of Overseers since 1994. One of the world’s wealthiest businessmen, he currently serves as chairman and CEO of MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings Inc. in New York.

Artist's drawing of the new Columbia Business School

Artist’s drawing of the new Columbia Business School

“We are grateful for Ronald O. Perelman’s generosity to the University,” said Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger in a statement.  “His major gift will not only benefit future generations of Columbia Business School students, but a wider University community in which a dynamic business education must play a vital role in the broader academic mission.  Our world has been changed by the global marketplace, so business schools and universities must respond with new thinking and new structures for learning about our economy and society.  The Perelman Center will be part of an interdisciplinary and environmentally sustainable urban campus that will help define Columbia’s next century.”

“The business landscape is changing rapidly and dramatically, and as such the principles that define strong business leadership — such as an entrepreneurial mindset and solving complex challenges — are more important now than ever before,” said Perelman in a statement.  “It is our responsibility to ensure that we are building a generation of great business leaders who drive success in an ever-changing, competitive global economy, and I believe Columbia Business School has its finger on the pulse of the changing nature of business education. I am extraordinarily pleased to pledge this gift to help them prepare the next generation of business leaders for 21st century challenges.”

Perelman is an active philanthropist who believes powerful results can be achieved when financial resources are leveraged with human resolve.  Perelman has established the Revlon/UCLA Women’s Cancer Research Program, the Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology at New York University Langone Medical Center, the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, and the Ronald O. Perelman and Claudia Cohen Center for Reproductive Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical Center.  He serves on the boards of the New York University Langone Medical Center, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Cornell Medical Center, Ford’s Theater, Apollo Theater Foundation, and Carnegie Hall.

Perelman hasn’t forgotten his alma mate, either. Only two months ago, he gave the University of Pennsylvania a $25 million gift to create a Center for Political Science and Economics under his name. He had also given $20 million to create Perelman Quadrangle, making it possible for the University to restore the buildings at the historic core of its campus. Perelman has supported undergraduate financial aid, The Wharton School, athletics and medicine.

“Throughout the past four decades Ronald has proven himself to be one of the most accomplished investors and philanthropists of his time. He displays the type of instinct and insight that are hallmarks of a true leader — the very same traits that we seek to instill in our students here at Columbia Business School,” added Hubbard in a statement.  “The Perelman Center will allow Columbia Business School to continue pioneering breakthroughs in management education, such as moving beyond functional expertise or siloed learning and ensuring a more integrated curriculum for our students.  It will help us create the classrooms of tomorrow and foster an even greater collaborative spirit among recruiters, students, alumni, and faculty members, paving the way for a stronger network and more meaningful outcomes for our community.”

Hubbard continued: “We have always had the talent, ideas, curriculum, research, and community of a stellar business school.  Soon, thanks to Ronald’s generosity and that of our other donors, we will have the facilities to match.  On behalf of the students, faculty, staff, and graduates of Columbia Business School, I would like to express our sincere gratitude to Ronald for his generous gift.”

The two new Business School buildings on the Manhattanville campus will be designed by renowned New York architecture firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro and will reflect the fast-paced, high-tech, and highly social character of business in the 21st century.  The facilities will encompass more than 450,000 square feet and will offer multifunctional spaces that foster a sense of community — spaces where students, faculty members, alumni, and practitioners can gather to exchange ideas. Construction of the business school buildings is not expected to begin until two more years.


  • Class of 1975

    Columbia’s new Manhattanville Campus will be transformational and a huge boost to Columbia’s preeminence and New York City generally!

  • blubla

    it is quite sad that CBS is getting a 100 million dollar donation from a board member? dont let the world know where YOU went to school

  • jonera

    once Manhattanville gets going after being held hostage by all those community groups wanting to get their piece of the pie and preventing that area from developing, then cbs might move ahead in the rankings…

    hopefully they will go back to giving uncosigned loans to internationals which is one of the reasons it is becoming less selective as top internationals are not applying to cbs unless they have the resources already

  • JulsF

    Philadelphia is better than NYC. It is not as crowded and people are nicer, makes the bonding among student more awesome!

  • FantaandPepsi

    or better, sell the whole business school to Yale!

  • Pelaros

    actually, he understand the “investment” from wider prospective, and it shows greatness of the school. Two things are good for you at the moment: reading more, and orange juice.

  • JBKS


    This is a GIFT not an INVESTMENT, those two things are very different and the fact CBS didn’t teach you that just supports the claims seen here about your school…

  • LOL is that quote from the CBS press release?

  • Yes, I know that but my point is that Wharton has not got a project right now that urgently requires a mega donation, nor do they have any naming rights up for grabs. If Wharton got $100 million right now, it would probably just go into their endowment. Meanwhile, they have plenty of Lauder and Huntsman cash to keep them going.

    In fact, when Huntsman made his unsolicited $40 million donation, Wharton didn’t initially know what to do with it:

    “Robert E. Mittelstaedt, Wharton’s vice dean, said it was not yet clear whether the gift would go toward boosting Wharton’s $275 million endowment or toward other purposes.”


  • WestCoast

    The Med School and the dorm rooms at UPenn are not Wharton. He has also given to UCLA and NYU.

  • BB17

    There are plenty of CBS alumni who have written big checks including Henry Kravis, Leon Cooperman, Arthur Samberg, Russell Carson, and even an anonymous gift for $25m to name a few.

    Mr Perelman on why CBS: “Columbia Business School has its finger on the pulse of the changing nature of business education”

  • MBAprospect

    Should Wharton move its campus from gloomy Philadelphia to New York City to stay relevant in future?

  • Does it also say a lot that CBS alum Warren Buffett declined to put any of his money into Columbia and that CBS had to turn to a non-alum to get such a big donation?

    What new buildings is Wharton constructing that Perelman has declined to fund? He and his family have given three times that amount to UPenn in recent years. Just a couple months ago, he signed a $25 milllion check to fund a new UPenn building. I don’t think it’s an either/ or situation. The Perelmans still have plenty of money left.

    And no, I’m not a Whartonite, disgruntled or otherwise.

  • I don’t entirely agree with your comment on culture. While it may not be feasible to dictate a culture per se, universities and b-schools do control whom they admit to the school. An element of “cultural fit” plays a role in pretty much every b-school admissions review. Stanford and HBS have rather different “ideal candidates”.

    Also, the students come and go within one or two years, depending on the length of the program. They are merely variables while the b-school staff and faculty are the constants in the cultural equation and the link between current students and alumni. If the b-school authorities are laissez-faire, then yes, the lunatics may end up running the asylum, but if they are very hands on, then the school culture can be far more “top down” in nature.

    I agree with you insofar as EU b-schools are influenced by the culture of EU universities, where networking and alumni associations tend to be relatively rare and to pale in comparison with the more organized efforts of US educational institutions.

  • WestCoast

    It says a lot that Perelman is putting his money in Columbia vs. Penn. Forget all the Columbia bashing below from disgruntled Whartonites… If anyone knows a good investment, it is Ron Perelman; and its a very low blow to Wharton that he sees a brighter future at Columbia. Everyone is taking note.

    BTW it’s pathetic to say that this is bad for Columbia, that comment not even worthy of reply.


  • Ryan

    If you are good enough it doesn’t matter whether you are from INSEAD or HBS. If you get into a top-tier school what in the end matters is you.

    Universities don’t dictate the culture in b-schools, it is the students/the people themselves. The culture in EU schools has more to do with the EU culture and less to do with the school. Americans are generally more friendly and straight talking than Brits or Europeans…

  • 2cents

    Ya in retrospect I regret writing that. I would say that certain schools are more prone to socially minded students (basically Stanford and Kellogg) but that statement was false. I’ll correct it by saying there is a small but growing place for it in bschool (see Stanford’s loan forgiveness program for example of schools supporting it).

    Will also go on the record by the way of saying, while not for me, CBS is a fantastic program.

  • John

    Who are you, that someone’s got enough of an interest in you to keep track of which schools did or did not ding you?

  • bolazno

    I didn’t even apply there.

    I went to their information session last year though, the dullest in history. Seeing the adcom stressing so much on Hubbard’s collaboration with the Bush administration + seeing alumni clearly hating and looking down on each others confirmed how much this school lacks dignity.

    Don’t forget that CBS uses dirty tricks such as early admission to trap applicants, that should be enough to turn-off anyone with a minimal critical thinking.

    PS: Anthony, FYI, Wharton endowment is +50% that of CBS, which is the lowest of the M7. Some perspective.

  • Eric

    Bolazno got ding at CBS. Both CBS and Wharton are excellent schools.

  • TheTruthShallSetYouFree

    I rather die attending B-School in New York, than live and attend B School in Philly or Hyde Park. Also, better career placement and opportunities at CBS than Wharton or Booth. Just think about commuting to nyc every week…

  • Anthony

    Henry Kravis donated $100m also to CBS. More than any Wharton grad has ever given to Wharton. New CBS campus will cost $650m, Huntsman hall cost was $139m. Some perspective.

  • Mike

    “individuals looking to dedicate their lives to philanthropy, social enterprise and the likes are heading to school as much these days as consultants and i-bankers”

    Are we talking about business school? Because this is completely, 100% false.

  • 2cents

    I don’t really know if I buy that argument. To that point Buffet
    certainly sees Gates as the best pure tool these days in directly fighting poverty, violence
    and sickness, and philanthropy is often seen as a more meaningful legacy to the successful man than names on a building. However, individuals looking to dedicate their lives to philanthropy, social enterprise and the likes are heading to school as much these days as consultants and i-bankers. Not giving money to any institution reflects the fact that he doesn’t believe any school can foster these individuals any better than the organizations funded by Gates.

  • ungvar

    You didn’t get in, did you?

  • ungvar

    Buffet doesn’t seem interested in endowing schools. Rather, he’s given most of his haul to Gates to distribute, which is fine and probably affects more people on this planet than bolstering an Ivy League school.

  • ungvar

    Sounds to me like bolzano is a disgruntled Whartonite. I’m pretty sure Perelman doesn’t hand out 100 million donations to dying schools as bolzano writes. To the contrary, it suggests that Perelman thinks that Columbia can put the money to better use than Penn.

  • 2cents

    If you can get 100 million as a charity case dying school, i’m in the wrong business. He’s on their Board, which in the non-profit/ed world is a fundraising platform and so it doesn’t seem as much out of left field as others seem to be reading it. Congrats to CBS on the haul. It is interesting that they can’t get Buffet to join in though.

  • getAlife

    sorry you didn’t get in.

  • bolzano

    This whole story is more bad than good for CBS.

    Such a gift from an non-alumnus (esp. from a stronger school) is quite humiliating IMO. It highlights that they weren’t able to find a CBS-alumnus to finance them. Either they couldn’t leverage their own alumni network, or their alumni don’t feel a strong connection to their school.

    Sounds like charity to a dying school.

  • bolazno

    Frankly it’s quite sad for CBS in my opinion.

    It’s quite humiliating to have an non-alum (especially from a better ranked school) giving money, just like charity. It just highlights that CBS either cannot leverage its own alumni base or that they don’t feel close to their school whatsoever. Pathetic.

  • Naming rights are not necessarily about being an egomaniac. That is just largely the way in which academic institutions traditionally pull in eye-popping donations. It gives the school an excuse to approach people and solicit a large donation by appearing to offer something rather than asking for money. Wharton has run out of naming rights opportunities so it is probably not soliciting mega donations at the moment, which is why other UPenn schools are targeting the Perelmans. Naming rights also give mega donors an opportunity to see very visibly how their contribution has made a difference to the school community, rather than the donation disappearing without a trace into an endowment.

  • It’s still hilarious that he said no, though!

  • duh—

    Rankings /=/ employment prospects

  • Guest

    Booth will be better than both of them in all rankings in about 5 years.

  • WElose50IQptsFROMonlinePOSTING

    I doubt he gave $100m just to get a building or a wing thereof named after him like many are saying below. Sure, that’s great — but I just have a hard time believing that this would be the motivating factor.

    Sorry to interrupt on the CBS bashing. It’s been getting a lot of **** from the left after inside job. Granted Hubbard was caught more off-guard, played a larger role in the Bush administration, etc., but I always think it’s funny how no one ever mentions Harvard or any of the others alleged to be the cause of the problem in the clearly objective, completely factual, non-biased “documentary” of Inside Job. That’s sarcasm btw.

  • Luca

    Warren Buffett is not self centered when it comes to donations. He donated most to the Gates foundation and turned down named buildings. He said in interview that he is good at making money but others are better qualified to make a difference. I found him genuinely humble.

  • Orange1

    OK, I’ll play the cynic here. How much money can a business school receive for it to make a difference? If Warren Buffett walked out of his house in Omaha one day and said, I will give the University of Nebraska business school $1.5 billion, what would they do with it anyway?
    So what does Ron Perelman really get for his money? No doubt the gift does a lot for his ego.

  • barpados

    Laugh is good for your health anyway. Whenever you feel sad and upset, just remember columbia is top 4 and go in crazy laugh.

  • nokidding

    I agree, Columbia was in a downward spiral, and for many it doesn’t deserve its place in the top7 anymore.
    I laughed when I red CBS would be top4.

  • booth

    CBS definitely was more well regarded a few years ago. Don’t think the gift will change anything.

  • Perelman has already donated over $50 million to UPenn, hence the Perelman Quadrangle at the heart of campus, and his parents have donated $225 million. His father is also an alum.

    CBS needs the money more than Wharton does right now and the new $650 million CBS campus offers a whole host of new naming rights. Wharton has nothing of any importance left to name, which is probably partially why the Perelmans are funding other UPenn schools besides Wharton. For example, Perelman just donated $25 million in February for a new UPenn political science and economics center.

    It’s still a coup for CBS and should help to distract from CBS alum Warren Buffett’s refusal to cut the school a check!

  • permChaos

    Back from where?! CBS is a top 4 or 5 school my friend. Ranking has nothing to do with the superplayers such as Columbia or Wharton or Harvard. the Yield rate is the best thing to measure the school I believe.

  • Quant

    It certainly helps that his daughter chose CBS over Wharton. And CBS was never not gone, so no, this doesn’t mean “CBS is back.” CBS dropped in one ranking. It’s still a top five school in several rankings, and compositely 5 or 6 in Poets and Quants every year.

  • Amita

    That’s the same question I would pose. Surely, the Wharton alumni office didn’t do their job to develop relationship and miss the donation. Possibly Mr Perelman did not feel close to the Wharton community and is not fond of his experience. Nevertheless kudos to him.

  • prusd

    Does this mean that CBS is back? Wall Street still really isn’t hiring many graduates (at least compared to before the recession). Will the NY tech startup scence begin to hire [Columbia] MBA’s? On the other hand, startups really don’t pay high entry level salaries. I don’t know how Columbia MBAs with loans are going to pay them off if hiring is downtrodden. Consulting?

  • theKomodo

    I wonder what the Wharton school’s management team feels about this news. There’s probably a political/business motive behind Perelman’s decision to donate to CBS. However I can’t help to think that perhaps there is a certain degree of him not feeling connected to Wharton.

  • Yes, I’m a European alum of a top 2 US b-school and I think these huge donations are the most glaring examples of how extraordinarily tight knit US b-school networks can become. Universities in most European countries in general don’t really have the same culture of life-long bonds to the university community and consequently European b-schools also lag their US counterparts in community cohesion and alumni networking. It really does make a huge difference when seeking new job opportunities, all throughout your career, not just while you’re still a student.

    However, it’s important to think about where you want to base yourself after b-school, too. For example, European schools tend to offer better European networking than many US Top 30 programmes, a lot of which also suffer from poor brand recognition in Europe.

  • Regret

    Dear European Business Schools,

    I just want to remind you that such donations and gifts in the US is really what makes their business schools are unmatched and hard to compete with. It is clear message to the future applicants to consider carefully where they go to study for their business education. The US traditions in supporting the educational institutions is the main reason why those institutions rule the education and lead the world. European are way way behind, and I really do not know why the hell someone go to europe to study. It is a mistake that I did to go to the top European school, you can not compare it even with the top 30 american school in every aspect. I am seriously thinking to hide my degree and do the MBA again in the US.

    Student in Fontainebleau.