Harvard's counter-offensive against Oracle CEO Larry Ellison never made much sense. Ellison said he decided not to hand over the millions he had pledged to the University when president Larry Summers resigned amidst trouble with the faculty. Harvard protested that Ellison broke off talks over the gift months before Summers resigned. We speculated that maybe, just maybe Ellison had grown sick of the shabby way Summers was being treated, and didn't have to wait until the actual resignation to understand that his friend was in trouble there.
And it turns out we were so effin' right it hurts.
Ellison pledged the money to Harvard following a meeting with former University President Larry Summers, says Oracle Spokesman Bob Wynne. The two discussed Summers' theory of using an economic model to rate the quality of government health-care programs around the world. Ellison was intrigued and agreed on a handshake to donate the money. Later, Summers came under fire for comments made in January, 2005, suggesting that the lack of women in science and engineering is because of men's "intrinsic aptitude" for these jobs. In March of last year, Harvard's faculty passed a lack-of-confidence vote, and about a year later Summers said he'd resign.
While it's true that talks broke off before the resignation, Ellison started to rethink the donation as Summers' problems deepened, Wynne says. Now that Summers is out, he has officially rescinded the commitment. The University and other skeptics counter that not only University institutions but often its professors and staff stay in place regardless of who's president. Still, Ellison was concerned that with the biggest advocate for the program gone, it wouldn't have the same effect. "It was his brainchild and he was going to oversee it," Wynne says of Summers. "If the president of the university is going to sponsor your initiative and he's gone, how do you know your giving is going to be effective?" (Ellison would not comment directly for the story.)
Looks like billionaire businessmen care about who is managing the projects they invest in. Who knew?
The Rich Giveth, and They Taketh Away [Business Week]