Trusts & Estates

Billionaire donors nix $20M gift after judge rules that college can't be renamed

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Wall Street billionaire Sanford Weill and his wife have withdrawn a $20 million gift to a struggling New York college after a judge ruled that it could not be renamed.

Under the terms of J. Phelps Smith’s bequest of $2.5 million to found Paul Smith’s College in 1937, it had to be named after his father in perpetuity, reports the Plattsburgh Press Republican.

Although there might have been some leeway if it could have been shown that the college could not survive without the $20 million from the Weills, the terms of the Smith will had to be honored, a Franklin County judge ruled on Oct. 7.

College officials announced Thursday that the board of trustees had decided not to appeal.

“It was a naming gift, so without the court allowing us to go forward there was no money,” a spokesman for the college, Bob Bennett, told the New York Times (reg. req.). “That was the deal, right from the beginning.”

The school had sought the court’s OK to change its name from Paul Smith’s College to Joan Weill-Paul Smith’s College. A number of alumni had opposed the renaming.

The Weills have a home in the Adirondacks, where the college is located, and have previously donated, the articles report. Joan Weill has also served on the board of trustees.

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