FAMU backs away from recently announced record breaking $237 million donation

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The planned $237 million donation to Florida A&M University (FAMU) from Gregory Gerami and the Isaac Batterson 7th Family Trust is now on hold due to concerns raised about the value and source of the gift. FAMU President Larry Robinson made this announcement during an emergency meeting of FAMU’s fundraising foundation, citing reservations expressed by board members and heightened skepticism from the media and school leaders.

The donation, made in the form of millions of shares of stock, has already been transferred to FAMU. However, questions have arisen about the true value of these shares, especially given Gerami’s past involvement in a similar large donation of $95 million in 2020 to Coastal Carolina University that fell through weeks after it was announced.

FAMU foundation members voiced frustration about not being informed about such a significant transaction, questioning how the university proceeded without their knowledge or input. School leaders defended their decision, pointing to potential future gains if Batterson Farms Corporation, Gerami’s company, goes public. However, they acknowledged the inherent risks involved, as the value of the donated shares could fluctuate significantly.

The agreement outlining the donation mentioned the donation of 14 million shares of stock initially valued at $239 million, with an additional $61 million pledged over a decade. Yet, there are discrepancies in valuations and uncertainties regarding the stocks’ actual worth.

Finance experts and board members have raised concerns about the lack of transparency and due diligence in vetting the donation, calling attention to the need for clearer explanations about the stock valuation and the donor’s financial standing. As investigations continue, FAMU faces the challenge of reconciling expectations from this substantial gift with the realities of its actual value and impact on the university’s future.

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