In the sixteen years since he made billions by shorting the 2007 housing bubble, hedge fund manager John Paulson has funneled much of his fortune into education. The investor’s most recent gift to what has become a pet cause is a $27 million donation to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem via the Paulson Family Foundation, as announced today (September 28).
His contribution will fund the construction of a new building for the Hebrew University’s school of computer science and engineering, with approximately 75,300 square feet of laboratories, teaching rooms, office spaces and computer stations. It will also be home to “an A.I. research center that we are in the process of establishing,” Sara Cohen, dean of the school, said in a statement.
The new building will become the fourth in the school’s computer science complex, which will hit full capacity by the end of 2024 amid rising enrollments. “Israel’s quality higher education is largely responsible for the country’s technology boom and rapid economic development,” said Paulson in a statement, adding that his gift will ensure the university “has the resources to meet the growing demand for computer science and engineering education.”
Paulson, who currently has an estimated net worth of $2.5 billion, founded the firm Paulson & Co in 1994 and is best known for having benefited from the subprime crisis by betting against mortgage-backed securities, a move that made him $4 billion and established his name in the world of hedge funds.
John Paulson’s history of giving
After launching the Paulson Family Foundation in 2009, the investor has primarily focused on supporting education in his philanthropic endeavors. In 2015, he donated $8.5 million to Success Academy, a New York City network of charter schools. He’s also given a total of $120 million to New York University, where he received a bachelor of arts and science in 1978, with donations in 2009 and 2012 that went toward the university’s business school and funded a new academic building in Greenwich Village.
But his most well-known gift was a $400 million pledge to Harvard, his other alma mater, made in 2015. His decision to give such a significant sum to the world’s wealthiest university drew public criticism, including from Malcolm Gladwell. “Next up for John Paulson: volunteering at the Hermes store on Madison Avenue,” wrote Gladwell as part of a barrage of sarcastic tweets, adding that “It came down to helping the poor or giving the world’s richest university $400 mil it doesn’t need. Wise choice John!” In light of the backlash, several fellow hedge fund managers came to Paulson’s defense, with investor Marc Andreessen tweeting that such donations are “moral virtues, full stop.”
Despite the outsized focus on his contributions to education, Paulson has also been philanthropically active in areas like land conservation. In 2012, he gave $100 million to the Central Park Conservancy to help fund the park’s infrastructure and activity programming. And his foundation donates to the Lake Agawam Conservancy in Southampton, New York. Paulson also owns a 10-acre estate in the region and has offered a portion of the land to the Conservancy to repurpose as a public park.
Other notable donations have included a $15 million gift to build a hospital in Ecuador in 2010 and his 2021 contribution of $15 million to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Paulson, an avid art collector with several works by Alexander Calder, has additionally supported cultural institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Frick Collection and the School of American Ballet.