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March 29, 2016

Thorny Issues Accompany Flaps Over Big Naming-Rights Gifts

Town & Country magazine looks at social and psychological dimensions of megadonations that have sparked controversies over the donors' naming demands.

The article considers prominent recent cases — such as Lincoln Center's main concert hall being renamed for David Geffen after a $100 million contribution and an abortive $20 million gift to Paul Smith's College that hinged on donor Joan Weill being added to the institution's name — that fueled criticism that the philanthropists' primary interest was egotistical rather than altruistic.

The magazine places such examples in the context of a century of giving by the super-rich and changing attitudes about the relative value of anonymity versus high-profile recognition for major donors. It also notes that many of the naming gifts that generated backlashes were made by Jewish philanthropists who, in generational terms, are new to the ranks of the wealthy elite.

Read Chronicle of Philanthropy opinion columns on the Geffen and Weill gifts: one piece on billionaire egos and the other on naming rights in perpetuity.