Why This International Billionaire Should be Watched in the Arts

The Blavatnik Family Foundation has made quite a few big gifts in recent years. In a recent year, the foundation gave $50 million to Harvard towards accelerating the application of biomedical discoveries. That same year the foundation gave $10 million to Yale.

The foundation's overall giving though, is hard to track, as the charity doesn't have a website, and its tax records aren't accessible through the Foundation Center. Perhaps the reason for this is that billionaire Len Blavatnik lives in London, where he was named Britain's richest man according to the 2015 Sunday Times Rich List. Forbes has listed his net worth at $15.1 billion.

Born in the Ukrane, and bearing American citizenship, Blavatnik made sharp investments in post-Soviet aluminum and energy companies and earned a fortune. He's the founder and chairman of Access Industries, a privately held industrial group through which he controls his holdings. He and his wife Emily are active philanthropists. As an example of another big gift, the couple made a $20 million gift in 2014 to Tel Aviv University in Israel to create the Blavatnik Initiative, a "multi-year program focused on interdisciplinary scientific research, student film production, and faculty recruitment."  

Apart from major gifts in higher education and medical research, the Blavatniks also have an interest in the arts. The good news is that some of this philanthropy is more easily tracked. The Foundation Source comes in handy this time around, and reveals that the couple also moves some of their giving through the Provident Foundation.

Via this charity, Blavatnik and Emily have supported institutions like NYC Ballet, The Public Theater, Film Society of Lincoln Center, and American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic. Through the  Blavatnik Famly Foundation, meanwhile, the couple has supported institutions like the Tate Museum, and the British Museum, helping bankroll an Egypt exhibition. Len Blavatnik also founded the Blavatnik Archive, a nonprofit "dedicated to the discovery and preservation of historically distinctive and visually compelling artifacts, images and stories that contribute to the study of 20th century Jewish, WWI and WWII history." 

Consider all of this work as I now tell you about  a recent leading gift of $25 million from Len Blavatnik and the Blavatnik Family Foundation to Carnegie Hall’s ongoing 125th Anniversary campaign. The funds will support the "continued growth of the Hall’s artistic, educational, and digital initiatives as they are expanded over the next decade."

Blavatnik has supported the New York City music hall staple before. He's a founding patron of the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America and has been a funder of the institution for more than a decade. Blavatnik joined Carnegie Hall's board of trustees in 2014. 

Of the gift, Blavatnik says, "Carnegie Hall is the world’s premier music destination, the place where all of the finest artists have aspired to perform. It is important to me and my family that the Hall continue to thrive, bringing together artists and audiences for exceptional musical experiences and creating programs to engage and inspire the next generation of musicians and music lovers."

Away from New York City and London, the couple has also supported The Carnegie in Kentucky, an arts and arts education venue originally constructed in 1904 as a Carnegie Library. As for Blavatnik, he's not even 60 yet and has plenty of money on hand for greater giving down the line. The family's interest in the arts should be watched carefully.