Billionaire investor Henry Swieca became the latest corporate executive to cut ties with his alma mater, abruptly leaving Columbia University Business School’s board this week, citing “blatantly anti-Jewish student groups and professors,” according to a letter obtained by multiple outlets, as business leaders continue to criticize Ivy League universities over their response to largely pro-Palestinian protests in the wake of the conflict between Israel and Gaza militant group Hamas.
In his letter, Swieca said those students and professors are “allowed to operate with complete impunity,” which he argued “sends a clear and distressing message that Jews are not just unwelcome, but also unsafe on Campus” (Forbes has reached out to Swieca and the Columbia Business School for comment).
Swieca — who received his master of business administration from Columbia and founded Talpion Fund Management — argued in his letter that Columbia and the Columbia Business School’s reputation and integrity “have been significantly compromised by a moral cowardice that appears beyond repair,” citing protests on campus that included the pro-Palestinian rallying cry “from the river to the sea,” which the Anti-Defamation League has deemed antisemitic.
Swieca’s name does not appear on Columbia Business School’s website or on its list of board members.
Swieca is not the first billionaire cutting ties with the Ivy League school: billionaire hedge fund founder Leon Cooperman late last month cut off donations to Columbia in the wake of student-led pro-Palestinian protests, telling Fox Business he thinks those students “have sh** for brains.”
Billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman called on Harvard University, his alma mater, to suspend students who allegedly accosted a Jewish student at a “die-in” demonstration, though Harvard’s Palestine Solidarity Committee issued a statement saying event marshals “never physically engaged” with the student, and only removed him after he attempted to record the protest. Ackman and a slew of corporate executives — including Sweetgreen CEO Jonathan Neman — also pleaded for Harvard University to release the names of students who signed a statement putting sole blame on Israel for Hamas’ attack on October 7, in an effort to avoid hiring them. Conservative organization Accuracy in Media also criticized those students and deployed a truck to publicly display the names and faces of those students on an LED screen on campus, as well as students at Columbia who signed a letter urging the school to cut ties with “apartheid Israel” — though the so-called doxxing truck has faced heavy pushback from both students and university leadership.
Protests at U.S. college campuses largely critical of Israel have come under fire from university donors and right-wing lawmakers in recent weeks. Last week, police in New York arrested a Cornell University student for allegedly threatening Jewish students in an online forum. A student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst was arrested by campus police on Friday after he allegedly punched a Jewish student in the face at a protest organized by the school’s Jewish student organization. Remarks by lawmakers and news anchors condemning both Hamas for its deadly attack on Israel, and Israel for its strikes of Gaza, have also been met with heavy criticism, with progressive Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) being censured this week for using the term “river to the sea.” The Biden administration, meanwhile, condemned Fox News host Mark Levin for saying on air that CNN was “filled with a lot of self-hating Jews” and demanded Fox News host Jesse Watters apologize for comments he made on “The Five,” saying “We’ve had it, we’ve had it with them” (White House spokesperson Andrew Bates claimed Watters’ comments were directed at Arab Americans and the Muslim community).
We estimate Swieca’s net worth at $1.9 billion, making the Highbridge Capital Management co-founder and former chief investment officer the world’s 1,585th-richest person. Swieca sold a majority stake of Highbridge to JPMorgan Chase in 2004, and the remainder of the business in 2009. He opened Talpion Fund Management one year later.
Billionaire Ackman Calls On Harvard To Suspend Students Who Allegedly Removed Jewish Student From Protest (Forbes)
UMass Amherst Student Arrested For Allegedly Punching Jewish Student In Latest Clash On College Campuses (Forbes)