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String Theory

Donations to colleges and universities often come with strings attached: Funds must be used for scholarships, endowed chairs, buildings, and so on.

Donations to colleges and universities often come with strings attached: Funds must be used for scholarships, endowed chairs, buildings, and so on. Michael Moritz, 53, a partner at California venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, set out a new condition in June, when he donated $50 million to the University of Oxford’s Christ Church college. Christ Church must transfer the funds — the largest single gift in its history — plus an additional £75 million ($148 million) of its endowment, to Oxford University Asset Management, set up in September to deploy Oxford’s £700 million endowment. And it must persuade Oxford’s 39 colleges, with some £2.7 billion of endowment assets among them, to pool their funds to improve performance. “I’m trying to open eyes at Oxford to the benefits that will accrue to the world of academia if endowments are managed consistently for the long term under careful eyes,” Moritz says. It’s a lesson that the Welshman, who got a master’s degree in history at Christ Church in the 1970s and made a personal fortune estimated at $1.3 billion by investing in Google, Yahoo and other tech firms, is well placed to give.