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Weill Cornell Medical College Names Building After $100M Donor

By Amy Zimmer | November 9, 2011 12:56pm | Updated on November 10, 2011 9:42am
The $650 million research facility is expected to open in 2014.
The $650 million research facility is expected to open in 2014.
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Weill Cornell Medical Center

MANHATTAN — Weill Cornell Medical College’s $650 million 480,000-square-foot 18-story facility rising on East 69th Street, between First and York avenues, reached another milestone on Wednesday, when it was named the Belfer Research Building.

The building is being named in honor of Robert and Renee Belfer, who are contributing $100 million to it, school officials said. The space will double Weill Cornell’s research space when completed, which is expected to happen by 2014.

Robert Belfer, once featured in a Forbes piece on “riches-to-rags billionaires,” founded Belco Petroleum, which in 1985 merged with the now-infamous Enron.

Though Belfer left that company, he kept most of his Enron stock, which was worth an estimated $750 million in 2001, Forbes said. Belfer cashed in at least $100 million worth of the stock between 1998 and 2001, before the company declared bankruptcy amid federal investigations into fraudulent accounting practices.

He is currently chairman of Belfer Management LLC, a private investment firm. He has been on the Weill Cornell Board of Overseers since 1989 and serves on the medical school’s steering committee for its $1.3 billion “Discoveries that Make a Difference” campaign, the country's largest such fundraising effort for medical college research, Weill Cornell officials said.

"As a young man I was treated by physicians at Weill Cornell," Belfer said in a statement. "Over the years, this outstanding institution has helped many members of my extended family. I can think of no better way to give back than to hope that the discoveries made at this new research building will help generations of New Yorkers and all mankind to lead healthier lives."

Renée Belfer is a member of the New York Weill Cornell Council, which works to "strengthen ties" between the med school and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, according to its website.

For more than 20 years, she's been a member of the executive committee of the Lying-In Hospital of New York-Presbyterian. She has also been a co-chair of the annual fashion show and luncheon, supporting the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the medical school said.

"Renée and Robert Belfer and their family have demonstrated a deep and longstanding commitment to Weill Cornell and, more broadly, to the promise of biomedical research," said Sanford Weill, the former Citigroup CEO who is chairman of the Board of Overseers of Weill Cornell Medical College.

Weill pledged $250 million to the campaign in 2007.

The Belfer building is the centerpiece of the campaign, which has already raised more then $1.1 billion in five years, with 116 gifts of $1 million or more, 37 of which are going toward the new facility, school officials said.

The building will be focused on what's called translational bench-to-bedside research, targeting such health problems as cancer, cardiovascular disease, children's health, neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's as well as infectious diseases.

"The Belfer Research Building will be a powerful catalyst for scientific discoveries that address some of today's biggest health challenges,” U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney said in a statement.  "At the same time, this building will help cement our region's reputation as a Silicon Valley for biotech research, attracting world-class talent and creating jobs."