June 20, 2002 at 5:05 PM EDT - Updated July 28 at 5:00 PM
CLEVELAND (AP) - Billionaire Al Lerner (pictured, right) is donating $100 million to the Cleveland Clinic and its school for medical researchers that it is starting with Case Western Reserve University.
The Cleveland Browns owner and chairman and chief executive officer of MBNA Corp. called the Clinic "the crown jewel of Cleveland."
He said the cash infusion should turn the Clinic into the nation's "Mecca of health care," helping attract the biomedical jobs.
"We think it's by far the biggest gift ever given in the history of northeast Ohio," said Bruce Loessin, the Clinic's chief fund-raiser.
Dr. Floyd Loop, the Clinic's chief executive, called it "one of the largest gifts in the history of American philanthropy."
The name of the school that opens in 2004 will be called the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University.
Until Wednesday, the $16 million that the Lerner family gave the Clinic in 1997 to help build the research institute was the largest single gift to the Clinic.
That gift eclipsed the $10 million that the Lerners gave to Clinic rival University Hospitals in 1993, at the time the biggest donation a Cleveland hospital had ever received. To honor the gift, UH named a 210-bed addition Lerner Tower.
Mayor Jane Campbell said the Lerners' gift puts the Clinic-Case Western medical school partnership on solid footing.
"How long have we waited for the right tie between Case and the Cleveland Clinic?" she said.
Steve Minter, executive director of the Cleveland Foundation, said that in his 27 years with the organization he is unaware of a single gift in the community even approaching $100 million.
"This adds another piece to the critical mass of helping us move towards our goal of being a truly nationally prominent medical research and biotechnology center," he said.
Lerner, 69, of Shaker Heights, is a former furniture salesman and real estate investor who made his fortune in the credit card industry. MBNA Corp. of Delaware is the world's largest independent credit card issuer.
Last year, according to Forbes magazine, he was the 34th richest American with a net worth of $4.9 billion.
Lerner, who has had health problems recently, said the time seemed right to make the donation.
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)