Hong Kong tycoon Samuel Tak Lee donates US$118m to MIT for real estate studies

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 January, 2015, 1:07pm
UPDATED : Friday, 09 January, 2015, 7:42pm

Billionaire Samuel Tak Lee and his son, whose family own property developer Prudential Enterprise, have donated US$118 million to MIT, the latest in a string of Hong Kong tycoons donating overseas.

The gift, one of the largest in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s history, is intended to establish a real estate entrepreneurship lab that will promote social responsibility in the business worldwide, with a particular focus on China, the institute said.

The lab, as well as the building where it will be housed, will be named after Lee in recognition of his “substantial and ongoing” commitment to the institute, it said.

The donation was formalised on Wednesday with a signing ceremony at the school attended by Lee and his son Samathur Li Kin-kan.

It will fund fellowships for US and international students, support research on sustainable real estate development and urbanisation and make the lab’s curriculum available online.

Lee, who studied civil and environmental engineering at MIT in the 1960s, said he wanted to design a programme with his alma mater that tightly ties the study of real estate to 21st-century realities such as land reform, environmental challenges, burgeoning populations, and an evolving global economy.

“This is a period of tremendous change and opportunity for entrepreneurs in China and around the world,” Lee said. “I am eager to connect ambitious, talented students with the skills and knowledge that will help them succeed,” he said.

Last September, Hang Lung Group chairman Ronnie Chan Chi-chung and his brother Gerald Chan Lok-chung donated a total of US$350 million to Harvard University, the largest gifts received by the Ivy League university in its 378-year history.

In 2012, entrepreneur and philanthropist Dickson Poon donated HK$250 million to King’s College London’s law school. That was the largest donation from an individual to a European law faculty, according to the university, and Poon is the first Chinese after whom a European law faculty has been named.

Lee and his son last year lost a legal battle over a divorce settlement with Li’s ex-wife Florence Tsang Chiu-wing. The court granted Tsang a record HK$1.4 billion divorce settlement but an appeal court later cut the amount by two-thirds to HK$411 million.