‘Missteps were made’ in handling of alleged $237 million donation, Florida A&M president says

By Shawn Nottingham, CNN

(CNN) — The president of Florida A&M University admits “missteps were made” in the handling of a $237 million stock gift to the school from a Texas businessman, following concerns about the actual value of the donation.

Dr. Larry Robinson told the university’s board of trustees at a special meeting: “I wanted it to be real and ignored some of the warning signs along the way.”

Robinson said he recommended last week that the university cease working with the donor, Gregory Gerami, CEO of Batterson Farms Corp. He also told the board of the school’s financial arm, the Florida A&M Foundation, that the school was terminating the donation.

The donation was put “on pause” after media reports and university administrators raised concerns about the true value of the stock gift – and the details surrounding the donor’s previous donations.

According to a report from Politico, Batterson Farms is a relatively small company and its privately held shares are unlikely to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

In 2020, a notable deal involving a donor, later identified as Gerami, fell apart. Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina had announced a $95 million donation from an anonymous donor, who withdrew months later. An investigation by Myrtle Beach Sun News identified Gerami as the donor in a story that noted, among other things, that he backed away from CCU officials’ accusations of racism — a claim they denied.

Dr. Shawnta Friday-Stroud, one of the signatories of an agreement between the university and Gerami accepting the gift, has since resigned as vice president of university advancement, according to Robinson.

Friday-Stroud will continue at the university as dean of the School of Business and Industry.

“I fully support your decision to cancel this transaction. I only wish the decision would have been made during the six months spent developing the gift and before a public announcement,” said board chair Kristin Harper.

“I take full responsibility for this matter and the resulting consequences,” Robinson said.

The CNN Wire
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CNN’s Victor Blackwell, Devon M. Sayers, Hyan de Freitas and Kara Nelson contributed to this report.