NYU Kept John Paulson’s $100 Million Donation Secret for 10 Years

The donation was first made in 2012, although it wasn't publicly revealed until a decade later.

John Paulson speaks at podium, dressed in suit.
John Paulson has made several prolific donations to universities. (Photo by Mark Sagliocco/Getty Images for Gabrielle's Angel Foundation )

In December, New York University (NYU) announced it received a $100 million donation from John Paulson, a billionaire hedge fund manager, for a new academic building dedicated as the John A. Paulson Center.

However, the donation was actually made a decade ago in 2012 and wasn’t made public until the center was ready to open, as reported by Palm Beach Daily News.

Paulson, 67, graduated from NYU’s Stern School of Business in 1978 and has an estimated net worth of $3 billion. The co-founder of Paulson & Co, a New York-based investment management firm, he’s perhaps most well known for making $4 billion┬áby betting against the 2008 housing bubble.

While Paulson’s $100 million gift to NYU was originally made in 2012, its announcement was delayed because the upcoming building’s plans were still being developed, said John Beckman, an NYU spokesperson, in an emailed statement. “It seemed to make sense to make the announcement at a benchmark point in the construction of the building.”

The Covid-19 pandemic further delayed the school’s announcement regarding the donation, said Beckman “Ultimately, we made the announcement in December, when we dedicated the building just on the cusp of the opening,” he said. “It seems entirely fitting.”

The John A. Paulson Center, with was constructed with an estimated cost of $1.2 billion, opened in January. The building, located in Greenwich Village at 181 Mercer Street, contains faculty and first-year student residence halls in addition to classrooms, a theater, orchestral rehearsal hall, and athletic facilities for graduate students and undergraduates.

The building’s construction was protested by locals

“Personally, this gift allows me to express my thanks to the school that has done so much for me and for so many others,” said Paulson at a December dedication ceremony for the building. NYU and Paulson had previously decided they would make the announcement when the center opened, said Steve Bruce, a spokesperson for Paulson, in a statement.

The facility is part of an NYU redevelopment plan in Greenwich Village, which has been opposed by community and neighborhood activists. The school’s initial plans were scaled down in 2012 after protests from local advocates.

Paulson has been a prolific donor to educational institutions. He previously gave NYU’s business school $20 million and donated $8.5 million to Success Academy, a New York City network of charter schools.

In 2015, the billionaire made headlines for his $400 donation to Harvard, the largest gift in the school’s history. Writer Malcolm Gladwell publicly criticized Paulson for gifting such a large donation to a wealthy institution. “It came down to helping the poor or giving the world’s richest university $400 mil it doesn’t need,” Gladwell tweeted at the time.

Other philanthropic contributions from Paulson include a $100 million donation to Central Park and $15 million in donations to both the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and a maternity hospital in Ecuador. The hedge fund manager has also donated millions to Republican politicians like Mitt Romney and Donald Trump, in addition to being an economic advisor for Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign.

NYU Kept John Paulson’s $100 Million Donation Secret for 10 Years