Robert Ziff

NET WORTH: $4.8 billion

SOURCE OF WEALTH: Inherited, investments

FUNDING AREAS: Environment, Education, New York

OVERVIEW: Robert Ziff is the middle son of the late William Ziff, Jr. Robert has two siblings, older brother Dirk and younger brother Daniel. All three Ziff brothers have been donating money to a variety of nonprofits for a number of years.

BACKGROUND: Robert Ziff attended Cornell Law School, where he was the editor of the Cornell Law Review and graduated first in his class. However, he soon ended up working with his brothers in the hedge fund business at Ziff Brothers Investments (ZBI). After parlaying the family fortune into many billions, the brothers began winding down the firm over the past few years.


NEW YORK: Like his brothers, Robert Ziff’s personal philanthropy has a strong New York focus. Also like his brothers, Robert has given heavily to the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts. Among his first donations, was a $25,000 gift back in 1997. Since then, Robert has donated several million to the New York based performing arts center.

Robert has also donated to WNET and THIRTEEN, which are both a part of the Educational Broadcasting Corporation (EBC). Other New York-based organizations to which Robert has made donations include the Robin Hood Foundation, Central Park Conservancy, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of New York, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and Gay Men’s Health Crisis.

ENVIRONMENT: Robert Ziff’s environmental giving is relatively narrow in focus with the majority of his donations going to the National Audubon Society—which, incidentally, is also a big recipient of donations from both Dirk and Daniel Ziff. He has also donated smaller amounts to the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC).

EDUCATION: Much of Robert’s higher-ed giving is focused on his two alma maters—Harvard and Cornell. While attending Harvard, Robert played on the intramural hockey team for Dunster House. Of his experience, he said “We had one rule: show up and you can play. We lost almost every game, but we had a great time.” In 1995, Ziff made a gift to Harvard to endow the school’s intramural hockey program. A few years later, Ziff gave Harvard’s official collegiate hockey program $2 million to endow the coach’s position. Robert Ziff continues to make donations to the school.

Robert Ziff’s donations to Cornell are education-focused, rather than sports-centric. In 2008, he established the Robert D. Ziff Professorship of Law. The endowment seems to be the only major donation Ziff has made to Cornell. Robert has made a handful of smaller donations to the University of Michigan’s College of Engineering as well as its Rackham Graduate School.

Ziff doesn’t focus all of his education-related donations on higher ed. He recently gave his first alma mater, Ethical Culture Fieldston School. He's also given to the Browning School and the Ideal School of Manhattan.

POLICY: Ziff, via his foundation, has recently supported Peterson Institute for International Economics. 

LOOKING FORWARD: Robert Ziff’s grantmaking through his foundation has waned in recent years, but he's only in his early 50s and has plenty of time left to give.


Robert D. Ziff Foundation
350 Park Ave., 4th Fl.
New York, NY United States 10022


Daniel Ziff
Dirk Ziff