Len Blavatnik, the Ukrainian-born and Russian-raised billionaire businessman with a net worth of $17.9 billion, says he has given away $500 million to charity so far, mostly to world-renowned universities like Oxford, Harvard, Stanford and Yale. When asked why he favors donating to higher education institutions, he explains shrewdly that for him, conducting philanthropy is like running a business.
“It’s the bigger buck, or bigger results for the buck,” he says, in slightly accented English. “Or bigger bang for the buck, so to speak, if I focus on the few top academic institutions. They’ve already selected the best people, so the impact on my money is probably multiplied.”
The half a billion he’s given to philanthropy includes a 2013 grant of $100 million to Oxford University to launch the Blavatnik School of Government, a graduate-level program focused on public policy. He also pledged $50 million to Harvard University that same year for the Blavatnik Biomedical Accelerator, a program to further science research into practical therapies and cures for disease. In 2018 alone, his Blavatnik Family Foundation has given $10 million to Columbia University, $2 million to University of Pennsylvania and pledged $10 million to Stanford.