Robert Mercer and Peter Brown are the Co-CEO team running the hedge fund Renaissance Technologies. I've previously written about Robert Mercer, who's been a strong, though under-the-radar, funder of conservative policy groups. Both Brown and Mercer's current net worth is unknown, but they've both been making more than $100 million annually in recent years, according to Forbes and the hedge fund publication Alpha.
While recent 990s for the Mercer Family Foundation give a solid picture of Mercer and his family's grant making, the philanthropy of Brown and his wife Margaret Ann Hamberg through the Quetzal Trust isn't as clear. Part of this is due to the couple's huge giving in recent years to the Fidelity Charitable Giving Fund. But here's what we do know about the Browns' philanthropy:
1. The couple has supported their alma maters.
Brown attended Harvard and Margaret attended Harvard Medical School. The Harvard College Fund received $500,000 from the couple in 2011, while much more modest sums went to Harvard Medical School. The couple has also supported Yale, Carnegie Mellon, the National Academy of Engineering Fund, and SUNY Stony Brook. SUNY Stony Brook is in close proximity to Renaissance Technologies, and Renaissance founder James Simons once taught there.
2. STEM education is also an interest.
Brown, who got his B.A. in mathematics from Harvard and his Ph.D. in computer science from Carnegie-Mellon, also has an interest in STEM education. He was a member of the research staff at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center from 1984 to 1993, before joining Renaissance. The Browns have been steady funders ofJames Simon's Math for America, a nonprofit whose mission is to improve mathematics education in United States public schools by recruiting, training, and retaining highly qualified secondary school mathematics teachers. Support has also gone to the World Science Festival. The couple has given some of its largest sums to Sidwell Friends School (nearly $135,000 in 2011 and $75,000 in 2013), and Choate Rosemary Hall.
3. The couple has funded health outfits.
Let's talk for a moment about Margaret Ann Hamburg, a prominent physician who recently stepped down after a six-year stint as FDA Commissioner. She was previously health commissioner for New York City, from 1991 to 1997. Hamberg's parents were physicians: in fact, her mother was the first African-American woman to attend Vassar College and to earn a degree from the Yale University School of Medicine.
Given this background, one might assume that health would be a strong interest of this funder. However, recent 990s only tell the story of modest funding to outfits such as the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Harvard Medical School.
There is, however, one caveat with all of this. Of the approximately $7.1 million in grantmaking that Quetzal Trust did in 2013, around $7 million went to Fidelity Charitable. The year prior, $1 million went to Fidelity Charitable, out of a total $3.6 million. As a result, this makes it rather difficult to get a full grasp on what the Browns have been into lately. In years prior to 2010, the Browns' philanthropy was a little more transparent, with a dozen or so outfits being funded.
All that said, the Quetzal Trust held more than $175 million in assets in a recent year and a lot more money is likely to go out the door.
Related: Peter Brown Wall Street Profile