Billionaire Len Blavatnik is throwing his weight behind Apollo CEO Marc Rowan’s efforts to pressure the University of Pennsylvania over antisemitism on campus amid the Israel-Hamas war, On The Money has learned.
Unlike Rowan — who has donated more than $50 million to UPenn and has called on fellow alumni to “close their checkbooks” — Blavatnik didn’t attend the embattled Ivy League school.
In 2018, however, Blavatnik gave $2 million to endow a scholarship at UPenn’s Perelman School of Medicine.
In a Monday letter to UPenn president Liz Magill and medical school dean Larry Jameson, Blavatnik thanked the pair for their responses to an Oct. 17 letter which couldn’t immediately be obtained.
“The university’s condemnation of Hamas’s terrorist attacks .., is fundamental to its academic mission and responsibility, Blavatnik wrote. “So, too, is your recognition that antisemitism is resurgent on campus and that immediate steps are needed.”
Blavatnik demanded that UPenn “examine how the university’s culture has deviated from its foundational moral values and implement changes to bring it back in line.”
At the bottom, Blavatnik added, “Unfortunately, I’m not close enough to the university to recommend the necessary steps …. Accordingly, I will rely on the guidance of my friend and colleague, Marc Rowan, as things move forward.”
A spokesperson for Blavatnik declined to comment.
The letter follows a fizzled effort by a few trustees on UPenn’s board to stage a no-confidence vote last week to oust UPenn Chair Scott Bok.
On Friday, the university said in a statement that Magill received a “standing ovation” from trustees after announcing that there was “overwhelming support for the current chair continuing in his role.”
One source close to the situation called trustees who decided to support Bok “spineless weasels” and “pathetic.”
Meanwhile, some unhappy UPenn donors say Apollo CEO Rowan’s ability to marshal dozens of heavy-hitters like Blavatnik gives them confidence he’ll be able to effect change at Penn.
“I wouldn’t want to get sideways with Marc Rowan,” one source remarked.
Indeed, sources say Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro has been nudged to consider getting involved.
According to an esoteric law, if the governor shows up to a meeting of UPenn’s Board of Trustees, he can run the meeting.
David Krone, an Apollo executive who previously served as Chief of Staff to then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, is a close friend of the Pennsylvania governor, sources said.
Sources say Shapiro had considered making an appearance at the meeting last week and forcing a no-confidence vote against Bok.
Ultimately he decided against it but that’s still a card up his sleeve, sources add.
Reps at Shapiro’s office didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Penn didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Apollo didn’t respond to a request for comment.