Stephen Ross donates another $50 million

Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - 7:34pm

Early this morning, the University of Michigan announced a $50 million gift from alum Stephen M. Ross, a real estate developer and the namesake of the Ross School of Business.

Ross’s total lifetime donation now totals $378 million, making him the single largest donor to the University. This $50 million is intended to support career development programs and more action-based learning experiences within the school. In particular, a University press release outlined $16 million toward a Student Success initiative, $16 million toward a Faculty Support Fund, $8 million toward a Student Investment Fund and the remainder $10 million toward completing the physical campus.

“(The University) has become a world-class center of innovation and a magnet for attracting the best and the brightest students and faculty, and these new initiatives will even further enhance those efforts,” Ross said in the press release.

University President Mark Schlissel noted his gratitude toward Ross in the release.

“Stephen M. Ross continues to make a tremendous impact on the University of Michigan,” Schlissel said. “His generosity and outstanding leadership have transformed the learning environment for our students.”

However, this gift comes despite questions regarding Ross being under fire for tax evasion with one of his previous donations to the University; he is facing penalties for claiming an excessive tax deduction.

The gift in question was through a property donation of a data center located in southern California and gifted to the University in 2003. After the University resold the property for $2 million, the monetary value grew to $5 million.

Ross and his affiliates claimed a deduction of $33 million for the gift, though the property was recently appraised for only $3.4 million.

University spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald said the University was separate and ultimately, dismissed, from the legal proceedings revolving around Ross’s previous gift to the University.

“The University plays no role in establishing or even agreeing to what may be the fair market value claimed by any donor as a charitable contribution on their individual tax return,” Fitzgerald said. “Rather, that is a decision made by the donor and his or her tax counsel and advisers.”

Neither the IRS or the U.S. tax court found fault in the University’s handling of donations from Ross.

“In accordance with University policy, the acceptance of this gift and the sale of the financial interest by the University was thoroughly reviewed by legal counsel and tax experts,” Fitzgerald said.