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

By Shawn Nottingham, CNN

(CNN) — The president of Florida A&M University admits “misteps were made” in the handling of a purported $237 million stock gift to the school from a Texas businessman following concerns over 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 warning signs along the way.”

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

The donation was put “on pause” after media reports and college board leaders raised concerns about the actual value of the stock gift — and the details surrounding the donor’s previous donations.

report from Politico noted Batterson Farms is a comparatively small company, and its private 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. South Carolina’s Coastal Carolina University had announced a $95 million donation from an anonymous donor, who then backed out months later. An investigation by the Myrtle Beach Sun News identified Gerami as the donor in a story that noted, among other details, that he backed out alleging racism from CCU officials — an allegation they denied.

Dr. Shawnta Friday-Stroud, one of the signatories on 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 with the university as dean of the School of Business and Industry.

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

“I take full responsibility for this matter and ensuing fallout,” Robinson said.

™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

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

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