News and analysis
February 06, 2011

No. 6: Leonard Blavatnik

Leonard Blavatnik

Amount donated in 2010: $117.2-million

Beneficiary: University of Oxford

Donor’s background: Mr. Blavatnik founded Access Industries, an international corporation with holdings in chemicals and natural resources, media and telecommunications, and real estate. Its main offices are in London, Moscow, and New York.

Mr. Blavatnik, 53, pledged about $117.2-million to the University of Oxford, in England, to establish the Blavatnik School of Government. The money will go toward constructing a building for the new school and will support 40 professorships. A portion of the gift will endow operating costs for the school.

The philanthropist was born and raised in Russia, emigrated with his family to the United States in 1978, and became a U.S. citizen in 1984. Mr. Blavatnik did not attend Oxford but received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Moscow State University, in Russia, in 1978 and a master’s degree in computer science from Columbia University, in New York, in 1981. He then went on to earn a master’s in business administration from Harvard University, in Cambridge, Mass., in 1989.

Mr. Blavatnik wanted to donate money to a graduate school of government that would focus on improving government and public-policy practices globally but found that most such schools were in the United States. Mr. Blavatnik then learned of the Oxford’s desire, dating back to the 1920s, to establish such a school and decided the university was the best place to direct his donation.

“Oxford has a global reputation, based on a centuries-old tradition of public service and excellence in public policy,” said Mr. Blavatnik in a written statement. “Students will learn how to promote good government in both the public and private sectors, and the school will promote the exchange of new ideas while endowing its students with a fresh sense of purpose.”

Mr. Blavatnik serves on the boards of Tel Aviv University, in Israel, and the University of Cambridge, in England. He also serves on Harvard University’s Committee on University Resources. In addition, he serves on the boards of several New York institutions, including the Center for Jewish History, the New York Academy of Sciences, the 92nd Street Y, and the White Nights Foundation of America, a group that raises money to support several Russian arts groups. He is also a trustee of the State Hermitage Museum, in St. Petersburg, Russia.

No details were available about Mr. Blavatnik’s schedule for paying the pledge to Oxford.

— Maria Di Mento

View more profiles of donors who gave the most in 2010.