Perelman Pledges $100 Million for New Columbia Campus

Artist's rendering of the new building Courtesy Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Billionaire investor Ron Perelman has pledged $100 million to Columbia Business School for a new building going up in West Harlem that will bear his name. It’s a matching a gift made nearly three years ago that was the largest in the school’s history.

The building is part of a controversial $6.3 billion expansion of the Columbia University campus that won’t be completed until 2030. The expansion includes two new business-school buildings that will cost about $600 million and are expected to open about 2018. The business school is currently housed in Uris Hall, a 12-story building that opened in 1964, and Warren Hall, a 1999 facility it shares with the law school. With nearly 2,300 graduate business students and more than 300 faculty, space in both facilities is severely cramped.

Ronald O. Perelman

In recognition of the Perelman gift, one of the new buildings will be named the Ronald O. Perelman Center for Business Innovation. Perelman’s pledge follows another $100 million gift from Henry Kravis, the billionaire co-founder of private-equity shop KKR, in 2010. The second business school building will be named the Henry R. Kravis Building. Both Kravis and Perelman serve on Columbia’s board of overseers. Kravis earned an MBA from Columbia in 1969; Perelman has an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

The Perelman gift brings the total raised for the business-school project to $455 million, leaving the school $145 million short of its goal, according to school spokesman Christopher Cashman. Other big gifts came from Leon Cooperman, the billionaire chief executive of investment firm Omega Advisers, who gave $25 million, and several anonymous donors, Cashman says.

The new Columbia campus is being built on 17 acres in the Manhattanville neighborhood in West Harlem, about a mile from Columbia’s main campus in Morningside Heights. It will add more than 6.8 million square feet to the university. The business school buildings—totaling 450,000 square feet—were designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the firm responsible for recent projects at some of New York City’s most important cultural institutions, including Lincoln Center.

The business buildings “will reflect the fast-paced, high-tech, and highly social character of business in the 21st century,” the school said in a statement. The goal, said Dean Glenn Hubbard, is “moving beyond functional expertise or siloed learning and ensuring a more integrated curriculum” for Columbia business students.

To assemble the land for the project, Columbia used the state’s eminent domain powers, angering local residents and business owners. In 2010, the New York Court of Appeals ruled that the expansion was a “civic purpose” that justified the state’s use of eminent domain to acquire real estate. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal, giving the project a green light.

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