• Love, donations from Dan Loeb, Julian Robertson, John Paulson
  • Network aims for 100 schools, forms institute for educators

Men who hug. Hedge-fund managers who hug. That time Dan Loeb, known for picking fights, hugged. It happened Monday night at the Success Academy Charter Schools fundraiser.

Spencer Robertson, Nancy Brinker and Julian Robertson
Spencer Robertson, Nancy Brinker and Julian Robertson
Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Julian Robertson had just spoken about his family foundation’s $25 million gift to the network when he walked over to Loeb and John Paulson. Their embrace on stage in front of 750 guests was long enough to draw eyes up to the big screens and some amusement. "Group hug!" proclaimed one guest in the mid-section of Cipriani 42nd Street.

John and Jenny Paulson
John and Jenny Paulson
Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

The morning-after analysis: it may be that charter schools -- especially the ones run by Eva Moskowitz -- stir up passion. Giving money may fan the flames further. Loeb, chairman of the network, and his wife Margaret are big supporters ("it was love at first sight," he said of his introduction to Success Academy), and Paulson and his wife Jenny gave $8.5 million last year.

Dan Senor, Anne Dias, Boykin Curry and Campbell Brown
Dan Senor, Anne Dias, Boykin Curry and Campbell Brown
Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

The guests did their part, too, helping the benefit raise more than $10 million.

So that bro hug? Worth at least $43.5 million. And seeing the hug: priceless. Those who did included Bruce Kovner, David Einhorn, Anne Dias, Boaz Weinstein, John Sabat, Mike Sabat, Dan Senor, Roger Hertog, as well as Rupert Murdoch and Jerry Hall, Joel Klein, Dennis Walcott and State Senator John Flanagan.

The Robertson Foundation’s $25 million gift is to help the network grow to 100 schools in 10 years, from what will be 41 in the next school year. Paulson’s gift opened two middle schools and will fund the opening of the network’s second high school in August 2017.

Suzie Kovner, Rob and Stacey Goergen and Bruce Kovner
Suzie Kovner, Rob and Stacey Goergen and Bruce Kovner
Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Quick growth has been the goal from the get-go and the number of teachers has grown to 1,078 from 12 in 2006. The network, whose founders believe equality cannot be obtained if children cannot receive an excellent education in public schools, is now committing to disseminate what it has learned.

"Success Academy is going open-source," said Moskowitz, as she announced the formation of the Success Academy Educational Institute to share its teaching and learning methods with educators across the country. "Every kid deserves a world-class education."

Success Academy students
Success Academy students
Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Ninth grader Sanoussi Kane described one of Success Academy’s tenets -- persistence -- in action. After receiving a 59 on a physics midterm in February, "I had to own up to what I needed to do," he said. He went to the lab every day for three weeks. "I got 101 on the physics final. That hard work paid off."

Dan Loeb and Eva Moskowitz as seen on a screen near the cheap seats
Dan Loeb and Eva Moskowitz as seen on a screen near the cheap seats
Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Loeb was faced was with his own challenge speaking to the large crowd: remembering all of the law firms who have worked pro bono for Success Academy Charter Schools. "I knew I’d forget them the moment I had to remember all their names," he said. But he rallied: "Arnold & Porter, Sullivan & Cromwell, Kirkland Ellis, and I know I can’t forget my father-in-law’s law firm -- Paul Weiss."

Acknowledging the list read like the "legal team on the Allergan-Pfizer merger," he then asked why a school charity would need such legal firepower.

"Unfortunately, all the good things we do are contested by people in the political-union complex, that for whatever reason put their own adult interests above those of the children," Loeb said.

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