Harvard: No sight of Ellison's $115m pledge

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Harvard is still waiting for software billionaire Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle, to make good on a US$115 million pledge, a year after he announced what would have been the largest single contribution in the university's history.

BOSTON - Harvard is still waiting for software billionaire Larry Ellison to make good on a US$115 million pledge, a year after he announced what would have been the largest single contribution in the university's history.

Harvard said on Wednesday it hasn't received a cent from the flamboyant founder and chief executive of software giant Oracle and that school officials have spent months trying to reach him to discuss the matter - without success.

"Larry Ellison never paid us. The donation was never finalised," said Harvard spokeswoman Sarah Friedell.

The university has laid off three people it had hired to help run the proposed institute for health research as it waits for the funds promised by Ellison.

Oracle spokeswoman Deborah Hellinger declined to comment on the matter. Officials with the Ellison Medical Foundation couldn't be reached.

The fact that Ellison - a two-time university drop-out - hasn't made good on his pledge to fund health and environmental research at Harvard hasn't prevented the gesture from improving his reputation for generosity.

In October, Forbes Magazine listed him as one of the top 10 philanthropists in the business world, based on the size of the gift he had promised Harvard. He ranked just after Microsoft founder Bill Gates and financier George Soros.

Several other high-tech billionaires are also among the world's top philanthropists.

Google creators Sergey Brin and Larry Page have set aside at least $1 billion for projects tackling poverty and energy consumption while EBay founder Pierre Omidyar committed US$400 million to spur development in poor countries.

Forbes ranks Ellison as the world's 15th-richest person, tied with France's Liliane Bettencourt, heir to the L'Oreal cosmetics empire.

Harvard is still hoping that Ellison will pony up the promised funds, said Christopher Murray, a professor who was slated to run the Ellison-funded institute.

"We hope and expect that we will be able to bring to fruition ... Larry Ellison's enthusiasm for this important endeavor," Murray said in an e-mail.

Harvard's total endowment at end of fiscal 2005, was US$25.9 billion, according to the Harvard Guide.

(Additional reporting by Michele Gershberg in New York)

By: Jim Finkle

Copyright 2006 Reuters. Click for Restrictions
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