Stadium donor reviewing conditions

Multimillion-dollar gifts to universities are often paid over lengthy periods of time, but some institutions want upfront money to avoid debt.

Branden Peterson

Prospective stadium donor T. Denny Sanford said Thursday he is reviewing a set of conditions set forth by the University for his proposed $35 million gift to the school.

University President Bob Bruininks told The Minnesota Daily on Monday it is “unacceptable” for Sanford to wait until after a stadium is completed before making the gift.

Since then, attorneys for the University and Sanford have been negotiating details of Sanford’s donation.

When potential donors want to give large contributions to the University, they typically sign gift agreements detailing their offers, University of Minnesota Foundation development director Martha Douglas said.

“Every situation is different,” Douglas said.

A donor offered $7 million this month for a new multiuse athletics facility at Hamline University, Hamline spokesman Gary McVey said. The donor pledged to pay $1 million upfront and the rest while the facility is being built.

Though he could not comment specifically on Sanford, McVey said multimillion-dollar gifts are often paid over a period of time for several reasons.

Donors frequently invest money they plan to give, and the longer their gift sits in a bank account, the more interest it gains, he said.

“You have a pretty long period of time where the donor can earn a lot of money,” McVey said.

Organizations might be reluctant to sign on to projects with donors only giving money after construction, because it forces the institution into debt, McVey said. That is something not all organizations can handle, he said.

“It might stretch them too thin,” McVey said.

It is strictly against policy at Hamline to publicly announce gifts before donors have signed pledge agreements, McVey said.

When Bruininks announced the potential gift at a press conference with Sanford on Sept. 5, he was careful to call it a “proposed gift,” University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg said.

“I don’t think he was in any way suggesting that we had a full understanding about the details of the proposal,” Rotenberg said. “We were simply announcing that Mr. Sanford had made an offer, and we appreciate the offer.”

– Patricia Drey contributed to this report.