Bezos donates to Obama Foundation and NYU medical center

Business

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD – SEPTEMBER 19: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, founder of space venture Blue Origin and owner of The Washington Post, participates in an event hosted by the Air Force Association September 19, 2018 in National Harbor, Maryland. Bezos talked about innovating in large organizations as well as staying on the cutting edge in the space industry. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

(AP) — Former President Barack Obama’s foundation said Monday that it has received a $100 million donation from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the largest individual contribution it has received to date.

Separately Monday, NYU Langone Health, a medical center affiliated with New York University, said it had received a $166 million gift from Bezos and his family.

For its part, the Obama Foundation said in a statement that the gift from Bezos is intended “to help expand the scope of programming that reaches emerging leaders” in the United States and around the world.

The donation, it said, was given in honor of John Lewis, the congressman and civil rights icon who died last year. As part of the gift, the foundation said Bezos has asked for the plaza at the Obama Presidential Center, under construction in Chicago’s South Side, to be named after Lewis. Valerie Jarrett, a former senior adviser to Obama who serves as the foundation’s CEO, said in a statement that the foundation was “thrilled” by that idea.

Puck News first reported Bezos’ gift to the foundation.

Construction on Obama’s legacy project is expected to cost about $830 million and be completed by 2025. In the meantime, the foundation said it’s allowing donors to “honor and elevate the names of those who have fought for a more just and equitable world” by naming public spaces in the future presidential center.

“Freedom fighters deserve a special place in the pantheon of heroes, and I can’t think of a more fitting person to honor with this gift than John Lewis, a great American leader and a man of extraordinary decency and courage,” Bezos said in the statement released by the foundation. “I’m thrilled to support President and Mrs. Obama and their Foundation in its mission to train and inspire tomorrow’s leaders.”

Since stepping down as CEO of Amazon this year, Bezos has begun to focus more of his attention on philanthropy. NYU Langone, which received the other Bezos gift announced Monday, said in a statement that the donation will be used to aid “the health and wellness of diverse populations” across the NYU Langone Hospital—Brooklyn community, one of the school’s teaching hospitals and trauma centers in Brooklyn.

Last year, Bezos committed to spend $10 billion by 2030 to enhance climate change efforts through his Bezos Earth Fund. In recent months, he has released some details on how he plans to spend that money.

Bezos, whose personal wealth is estimated by Forbes at roughly $212 billion, had long been questioned about the relatively modest level of his charitable giving and reluctance to sign The Giving Pledge. The pledge, developed by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, is intended to persuade the world’s wealthiest to donate more than half their worth to philanthropic organizations.

MacKenzie Scott, Bezos’ former wife, whose fortune is estimated at $61 billion, has signed the pledge. Scott has made a splash in the philanthropy world over the past 17 months by donating $8.7 billion — without any strings attached — to numerous nonprofits across the country.

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