Pershing Square Foundation donates £5m to complete Global Leadership Centre

The University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School is proud to announce a £5m gift from the Pershing Square Foundation.

This generous gift completes the £60m funding package needed to create a state-of-the-art physical and digital hub for leaders in Oxford. The Global Leadership Centre, which is scheduled for completion in 2024, will be housed in a green restoration of the city’s first power station by the river Thames in the heart of Oxford.  In the centre, Oxford academics will train business leaders to tackle systemic challenges, ranging from the 4th industrial revolution to climate change.

Since its founding in 2006, the Pershing Square Foundation has supported exceptional leaders and innovative organisations that tackle important social issues and deliver scalable and sustainable impact. The Foundation is led by Bill Ackman, CEO and Portfolio Manager of Pershing Square Capital Management, L.P., and Neri Oxman, CEO of OXMAN.

The Pershing Square Foundation’s first set of gifts to Oxford created the Pershing Square Scholarships at Oxford University, which funds Oxford 1+1 MBA students, who pursue their business education alongside a second, specialised master’s programme in subjects ranging from education and environmental management to public policy, in order to drive systems change.

‘We have been delighted to partner with the Saïd Business School since 2013 to provide opportunities for exceptional individuals to study through the Oxford 1+1 MBA program,’ said Bill Ackman. ‘The next generation of global leaders will inherit an incredibly complicated world. We are pleased to continue our partnership with Saïd Business School with the creation of The Global Leadership Centre to provide an innovative place for business leaders to further develop the skills needed to tackle global challenges and make a lasting impact.’

The Global Leadership Centre will be a home to support exceptional leaders, who will be encouraged to innovate and experiment beyond the traditional boundaries of business education courses using the latest digital teaching technology. It is envisaged as a place to learn, a place to reset and a place to connect.

Using the Centre’s global connectivity, participants will be placed in business scenarios they have not encountered before, creating immersive, real-life learning experiences that challenge their perceptions and thinking.  It will integrate the latest technology to deliver a combination of in-person and online education.

Because the issues of the world require expansive thinking, work in the Global Leadership Centre will build on existing relationships with the University’s many departments as well as corporate and institutional partners.

While the former power station’s Victorian exterior will remain intact, the interior of the building will be transformed into a modern learning centre, including seminar rooms, breakout spaces, digital classrooms, an agora, an interior courtyard and on-site accommodation for programme participants. Planning permission was granted by Oxford city council in 2019.

Associate Dean for Executive Education, Dr Eleanor Murray, who will direct the work in the centre, said: “In the Global Leadership Centre, participants will immerse themselves in a Victorian building reborn with 21st century technology. It is hard to imagine a more fitting environment for participants to tackle systemic challenges such as poverty and climate change. Bill Ackman’s donation has brought another historic element from Oxford’s history into the modern age.”

Dean Peter Tufano, who will complete a decade in that role in June, has emphasized tackling world scale challenges as the School’s core focus while strengthening its reputation for diversity and inclusivity. The Pershing Square Foundation donation will help to secure this legacy while cementing the School’s reputation for cutting-edge executive education. Prof Tufano was Mr Ackman’s finance professor at Harvard.

Dean Tufano said: ‘Oxford Saïd is a world leader in the field of executive education. The contribution of business will be essential to building more sustainable and equitable societies in the decades to come.’

The Pershing Square Foundation gift completes a broader funding package for the project which includes substantial support from the School’s founding benefactor, businessman and philanthropist Wafic Saïd, founder and chairman of the Saïd Foundation; and from Sir Howard and Lady Stringer, former chairman of the Saïd Business School board and CEO of Sony Corporation. The project has also been generously supported by alumni including John Butler and his wife Susan Hayward-Butler, Steve Yamshon, and Hasmukh Patel.

Dean Tufano said: ‘Three generous donations – from Wafic Saïd of the Saïd Foundation, Bill Ackman and Neri Oxman of the Pershing Square Foundation and Sir Howard Stringer and Lady Stringer – have now set the keystone for Saïd Business School’s most ambitious and urgent project in my decade as Dean. I am grateful to them, to our generous alumni donors, to the University, and to the project team, faculty and staff who are working tirelessly to transform a grand Victorian power station into a hub for leaders for the next century.’

Professor Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Oxford, said: ‘On behalf of the entire university, I would like to express our deep gratitude to Bill Ackman, Wafic Saïd, Sir Howard and Lady Stringer and all the donors who have generously supported this project.

‘As we navigate the challenges ahead, this centre will provide an essential space to prepare business leaders for the grand challenges of the 21st century, from pandemics to populism.’

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