What's Behind Activist Investor's Activist Philanthropy? Icahn's $200 Million to Mount Sinai

With a net worth of $20 billion, Carl Icahn probably didn't really sweat his $200 million gift to the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. (See IP's Carl Icahn Foundation.) But the grant was apparently substantial enough to induce the school to change its name — it is now the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Icahn himself was an aspiring doctor, but he says he dropped out because he "hated it." Having a medical school named after you probably isn't the most common occurrence for a medical school dropout, but Icahn was already a trustee of the medical school and a significant philanthropist.

Much of Icahn's giving centers around schools and teaching. He has contributed to several charter schools, his alma mater (Princeton University), and a New England prep school (Choate Rosemary Hall). In addition, Icahn has expressed an interest in contributing to research. Princeton's Institute for Integrated Genomics now hosts a Carl C. Icahn Laboratory, and the establishment formerly known as the Institute for Genomics and Multiscale Biology at Mount Sinai is now known as the Icahn Institute for Genomics and Multiscale Biology.

Icahn isn't particularly specific about which diseases he hopes his contributions will help address. In speaking about his gift to Mount Sinai, he said he was certain it would lead to "significant medical breakthroughs in the diagnosis and treatment of disease that will dramatically improve and extend human life." But genomics are definitely the name of the game for Icahn. When his gifts to research institutions have gone to specific areas, those areas have almost always touched on genomics.

As the New York Times pointed out, Icahn outspent two other philanthropists in the New York area who've had institutions named after them — Wall Street financier Sanford I. Weill and Home Depot Founder Kenneth G. Langone. Both have contributed $100 million to New York medical schools in recent memory, although Icahn disavows any attempt to outshine them. (See IP's guide to Wall Street Donors.)