Robert A. and Renee E. Belfer Family Foundation: New York City Grants

OVERVIEW: The Robert A. and Renee E. Belfer Family Foundation invests in the arts, education, health and Jewish causes. 

FUNDING AREAS: Arts, Education, Health and Jewish causes.

IP TAKE: The foundation prioritizes the New York City area; however, it has also supported health generously.

PROFILE:  Robert A. Belfer is the son of businessman Arthur Belfer, who emigrated from Poland in the 1930s. Arthur had a stint providing down-stuffed sleeping bags for the U.S. Army before founding an oil empire that is now in its third generation. Before Robert took over his father's company as chair in 1985, he attended Columbia and then Harvard Law School. In 1992, Robert founded Belco Oil & Gas Corp., a leading independent producer of domestic oil and gas. Belfer is currently chairman of Belfer Management LLC, a private investment firm.

Belfer took a big financial hit a while back, losing somewhere in the neighborhood of $700 million because of shares he held in Enron. While it's true that Belfer is no longer on the Forbes 400, the Robert A. and Renee E. Belfer Family Foundation gave away more than $9 million at the end of 2012. The foundation appears to be upping its grantmaking and Robert and Renee sit on many boards in New York City and elsewhere.

The couple is deep into health, particularly cancer. Belfer is a chair of the board at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and is on the boards of Weill Cornell University Medical College and Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery. Outside of New York, Belfer is also on the board at Dana Farber Cancer Center. Renee, meanwhile, is a member of the New York Weill Cornell Council and has been a member of the executive committee of the Lying-In Hospital of New York-Presbyterian.

Weill Cornell Medical College recently opened an 18-story, $650 million research facility, nearly doubling the size of the institution's research space. Belfer donated at least $250 million to the campaign over the years. The new 480,000-square-foot facility is named the Belfer Research Building and will have research centers in cancer, cardiovascular disease, global health and neuro-degenerative disorders.

Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University also received more than $120,000 from the foundation in the past.

The foundation is also passionate about Jewish causes. They've given more than $86,000 recently to the American Jewish Committee. Central Synagogue, the UJA Federation of New York and Columbia Barnard Hilel have all received funds from in recent years.

The couple is also into art. They've given to the Metropolitan Museum of Art since at least 2001. Millions of dollars have flowed to the Met from the foundation over the years.  Renee also sits on the board of trustees at Met. In 1996, the couple gave $6 million to the museum to establish the Robert and Renée Belfer Court for early Greek and prehistoric art. Belfer and Renee are big collectors of ancient glass.

Apart from their dedication to the Met, other New York institutions such as Lincoln Center for Performing Arts (which received more than $500,000 in 2012), MoMA, Guggenheim, Carnegie Hall Society and the Whitney Museum received money recently from the Belfers. Apart from Lincoln Center, however, these gifts have generally been under $50,000.

In education, the couple has given to Horace Mann, Dalton, and Allen-Stevenson. Some funds have gone to organizations such as iMentor but education reform, at least as of now, doesn't appear to be a top priority for the Belfers.

Another thing to note is that Belfer and Renee's son Laurence is a trustee of the foundation and also operates a foundation of his own with his wife. That foundation is still in its formative stages but giving has been increasing, from under $11,000 one year to over $956,000 the next. Keep an eye on this funder because it appears to be interested in health. 


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Robert A. and Renee E. Belfer Family Foundation
767 5th Ave., 46th Fl.
New York, NY 10153
Telephone: (212) 508-9500