Leon and Toby Cooperman Family Foundation: New York City Grants

OVERVIEW: The Leon and Toby Cooperman Family Foundation was established in 1981 by Leon G. Cooperman, founder and chairman of the hedge fund firm Omega Advisors, and his wife Toby. The Coopermans generally give in New York and New Jersey.

FUNDING AREAS: Education, health organizations and medical research, human services, and Jewish organizations.

IP TAKE: The Coopermans tend to give big to a few institutions, starting with their alma maters. But Cooperman money finds it way to many places. 

PROFILE: Leon G. Cooperman, founder and chairman of the hedge fund firm Omega Advisors, has a true Horatio Alger story. The son of a plumber, Cooperman attended public schools in Bronx before being accepted at Columbia Business School, nabbing a coveted job at Goldman Sachs after graduating. He worked at Goldman Sachs for 25 years before founding Omega Advisors. Cooperman is now a multibillionaire. 

Cooperman and his wife Toby have been giving through their foundation for over thirty years now. Located in suburban New Jersey, the foundation generally gives in New York and New Jersey. At the start of a recent year, the foundation held over $275 million in assets and gave away over $15 million. Both assets and giving have increased in recent years.

The bulk of the Coopermans' money goes toward higher education. Cooperman and Toby met at Hunter College, from which they both graduated in 1964. The public college, part of the City University of New York, has received a steady stream of money over the years. In a past year, the foundation made a record-breaking $25 million gift to Hunter. Fifteen million went to toward the Leon and Toby Cooperman Library and the other $10 million established a scholarship fund. The Coopermans also supported the Hunter College Foundation with funds of around $250,000 in past years. 

The Coopermans have also been longtime supporters of Columbia Business School. In 1995, the foundation endowed the Leon Cooperman Professorship of Finance and Economics at Columbia. In a past year, the foundation gave $25 million for the expansion of the Columbia Business School campus. Beyond these big gifts, the Coopermans have tended to give $1 million to the school annually. Unsurprisingly, Cooperman is on the Board of Overseers at Columbia Business School.

In terms of K-12 education, the Coopermans have been a modest funder of outfits like Harlem Children's Zone, Harlem Village Academies and Prep for Prep. It has also funded ECLC, a school for the learning disabled in Chatham, N.J, where Toby, a longtime education consultant and administrator, once served as Vice Principal. She's currently on the board of trustees at ECLC.

The Coopermans have also been a fairly consistent supporter of health organizations, including several in the New York area. Leon Cooperman serves as vice chairman of the board at the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation. The goal of Damon Runyon is to find "early career scientists in cancer research" and facilitate bold and innovative thinking. In a past year, Damon Runyon received around $1 million from Cooperman.

Damon Runyon has been supported by Cooperman since 1996 when he was brought aboard by former chairman of GE Investments, Dale F. Frey, who at the time was chairman of Damon Runyon. Cooperman was tapped to manage the endowment of the foundation, part of which was invested pro bono in Omega Advisors as of 2010. Cooperman and Frey have been doing business together since Cooperman was still at Goldman Sachs. 

Smaller sums of money have also gone to the Bachmann-Strauss Dystonia & Parkinson Foundation, the Lymphoma Research Foundation, Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America, Lenox Hill Hospital and NYU Medical Center. Back in the early 2000s, the foundation was also supporting the National Neurofibomitosis Foundation, but has since stopped. Across the river in New Jersey, the Coopermans have been strong supporters of St. Barnabas Medical Center which received a large $25 million donation. 

The Coopermans are also quite passionate about Jewish causes and have given to United Jewish Appeal, among other organizations. Finally, they have given to poverty fighting mainstay, the Robin Hood Foundation, which generally receives annual grants of $200,000-$250,000.

Looking to the future, the foundation changed its name to the Cooperman Family Foundation and their kids—Michael, Wayne and Wayne's wife, Jodi—have all joined as trustees. As Cooperman once told Philanthropy Journal "...there are four options for those with great wealth: consume your money, leave it to your kids, lose half to the government, or recycle it back to society." The Coopermans have clearly elected to go the philanthropic route and if it's not them giving away their money, it'll be the kids.

PEOPLE:

  • Leon G Cooperman, Trustee
  • Toby F. Cooperman, Trustee
  • Michael S. Cooperman, Trustee
  • Wayne M. Cooperman, Trustee
  • Jodi Cooperman, Trustee

CONTACT:

The Leon and Toby Cooperman Family Foundation
P.O. Box 2369
Clifton, NJ 07015
Telephone: (973) 778-8885