A lonely billionaire

Some years back, billionaire Alfred Mann, who made a fortune on medical devices, offered UCLA $100 million. He told the Business Journal in 2001 that he wanted a deal done and an Alfred Mann biomedical institute in place for the 2002-2003 school year. Well, it never happened. Mann grumbled about bureaucratic holdups, and at the time I tended to believe him. After all, he had managed to get the Alfred Mann Institute built at USC in the late 1990s, and we've all heard nightmarish stories about getting anything through the UCLA red tape.

But Forbes has a nifty piece in its current issue about the trouble he's had giving away his money at other universities. Too many strings attached. He offered the University of North Carolina $200 million, but wanted to screen the medical inventions that could be developed at the school. He was footing the bill, after all. UNC said no thanks.

Turns out that besides being turned down at UNC and UCLA, Mann's offers have gotten a rough going over at Johns Hopkins. Emory, Case Western, the University of Minnesota and the University of Washington. Mann tells the magazine that he's puzzled by the rejections, but the universities says the guy wants too much control for too little money. The piece also gets into Mann's four marriages and the sour releations with his kids. Says that money has made them lazy. "Most of my children have lost the will to work," he griped in a speech last year (he supports the estate tax). But as he admitted in a 2003 Business Journal profile, "I can't say I have been the greatest father in the world. I think I treated my kids well, but on the other hand I didn't spend as much time with him as I think I should have." Actually, the work issue comes up a lot. From the BJ profile:

He was divorced from his third wife, Susan Kendall Mann, about a year ago, but had been separated for years. Kendall Mann calls her ex-husband a "sweet gentle guy" whose devotion to work interfered with marriage. "He wouldn't have been married three times if he was easy to live with," says Kendall Mann, who is president of her own frozen foods business.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
The multi-talented Mark Lacter
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