Non-profit

Kovner Foundation

Website:

www.thekovnerfoundation.org/

Location:

JUPITER, FL

Tax ID:

22-3468030

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)-PF

Budget (2015):

Revenue: $8,233,623
Expenses: $23,012,365
Assets: $219,468,198

Formation:

1996

Type:

Private Foundation

President:

Bruce Kovner

The Kovner Foundation is the philanthropic vehicle of Bruce Kovner, founder of the Caxton Corporation hedge fund. Kovner, who has been a trustee of the American Enterprise Institute since 1989, was chairman of the AEI board from 2002-08, and has been a trustee of the Manhattan Institute and the Hoover Institution, primarily donates to cultural organizations, charter schools, and center-right nonprofits.

Bruce Kovner

Bruce Kovner, born in 1945, graduated from Harvard with a degree in political science. He then went to graduate school in government, where he studied with political scientist Edward Banfield. Kovner dropped out of graduate school before finishing his dissertation, later telling the Wall Street Journal he was suffering from writer’s block. [1]

After trying several other professions, Kovner started financial trading in 1977 and in 1983 decided to create a hedge fund, Caxton Corporation. The fund was so successful that in 1995, it returned $1.3 billion to its investors. [2]

Kovner told the Wall Street Journal in 1991 that while academic debates had “unresolvable ambiguity,” “the markets are elegant in their discipline. They tell you whether you are right or wrong unambiguously.” [3]

School Choice Scholarships Foundation

At the start of the 1996-97 school year, the Catholic Archdiocese of New York offered to accept 1,000 low-performing students in the city’s public elementary schools. This led to the creation of the School Choice Scholarships Foundation, whose existence was made public in February 1997. The foundation, supported by $6 million grants, proposed to offer 1,000 students in the New York city public schools three-year, $1,400 grants to assist in tuition at private schools. Bruce Kovner was the foundation’s chairman, and trustees included prominent bankers and investors Peter M. Flanigan, Richard Gilder, and Roger Hertog. [4]

“We are doing this because of the importance of making choice available to kids who don’t have real alternatives,” Kovner told The American Enterprise, the house magazine of the American Enterprise Institute, in 1997.  “The public school system hasn’t provided good opportunities for these kids, so we think the private schools should be given a chance to help out.” [5]

The program was expanded in the 1998-99 school year with an additional 1,000 students receiving scholarships thanks to an additional $4.6 million in private aid. [6]

In 1998 the School Choice Scholarships Foundation became affiliated with the Children’s Scholarship Fund, launched with $200 million in donations, including $100 million from Theodore Fosrtmann and John Walton. The fund announced it would spend $10 million on scholarships for New York City school children, including an additional $5 million raised by Kovner. [7]

The School Choice Scholarships Foundation ended its scholarships after the 1999-2000 school year. In 2012, Brookings fellow Matthew M. Chingos and Harvard political scientist Paul Peterson, who tracked the scholarship winners over the next decade, reported that there were 31 percent more Black students who had been scholarship recipients attending college full-time than a comparable group of Black students who did not get scholarships. [8]

Grants to Cultural Organizations

In a 2015 interview in Philanthropy, Kovner said that he had” a near-religious experience” at age 15 when he heard the “Mars” movement of Gustav Holst’s The Planets.  “On that very day I began an exploration of classical music that never stopped,” Kovner said. [9]

Kovner has been a member of the Julliard School of Music since 1995 and chair of the Julliard board since 2001. In 2006 he donated a collection of 139 manuscripts by what the New York Times called “masters of the classical music canon,” including manuscripts by Ludwig van Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Franz Schubert. [10] In 2013 Kovner donated $60 million to Juilliard to endow the Kovner Scholarship Program, which pays tuition, room and board for 52 students at the school each year. [11]

Julliard received $5.4 million in 2019 from the Kovner Foundation. Other seven-figure grants went to the Metropolitan Opera ($2,000,000) and Carnegie Hall ($1.5 million). [12]

Support for Charter Schools

In a 2011 speech, Kovner said he became a supporter of the Institute for Justice (IJ) due to its support of school  choice. At a speech for the 20th anniversary of the institute in 2011, Kovner said, “The School Choice movement gave a voice to parents and others who wanted to take some measure of control back from government bureaucrats and union-dominated school systems.” [13] IJ received $333,333 from the Kovner Foundation in 2019. [14]

Jay Nordlinger in Philanthropy noted in 2016 that the Kovners were “major backers” of the Success Academy charter schools, with Suzie Kovner sitting on the Success Academy board. Academy founder Eva Moskowitz said that Kovner’s donations have encouraged other donors to give “because they know he (Kovner) is a serious person. So his influence goes beyond his gifts. He is a leader.” [15]

Success Academy received $4 million from the Kovner Foundation in 2019.  A $1,000,000 grant went to the Charter Fund, a national charter-school funder based in Broomfield, Colorado. [16]

Grants to Center-Right Policy Organizations

The American Enterprise Institute received a $1.2 million grant from the Kovner Foundation in 2019. Grants of $100,000 or more went to the Fordham Institute ($200,000), Education Next Institute ($113,000), and Foundation for Constitutional Government ($100,000). [17]

References

  1. [1]  Randall Smith, “Bruce who?  A $100 Million Man Finally Gets Attention, Much To His Chagrin,” Wall Street Journal, October 11, 1991. ^
  2. Peter Truell, “A Big Hedge Fund Returns $1.3 Billion to Its Investors,” New York Times, June 9, 1995. ^
  3. Randall Smith, “Bruce Who? A $100 Million Man finally Gets Attention, Much to His Chagrin,” Wall Street Journal, October 11, 1991. ^
  4. Jacques Steinberg, “Giuliani Sees Tuition Plan Set for Fall,” New York Times, February 4, 1997. ^
  5. “The Quiet Revolution in school choice,” The American Enterprise, March/April 1997. ^
  6. Amanda Hartacollis, “School Voucher Experiment Will Be Extended and Expanded,” New York Times, November 26, 1997. ^
  7. “$200 Million Scholarship Fund Launched by Entrepreneur Ted Forstmann,” press release from the Children’s Scholarship Fund, June 9, 1998. ^
  8.  Matthew M. CHingos and Paul E. Peterson, “A Generation of School-Voucher Success, “Wall Street Journal, August 23, 2012. ^
  9. “Interview With Bruce Kovner,” Philanthropy, Winter 2015 https://www.philanthropyroundtable.org/philanthropy-magazine/article/fall-2015-interview-with-bruce-kovner (accessed November 22, 2021) ^
  10. Daniel J. Wakin, “Julliard Receives Music Manuscript Collection,” New York Times, March 1, 2006. ^
  11. “Julliard Announces Creation of Kovner Fellowship Program,’ press release from Julliard School of Music, October 9, 2013. ^
  12. Kovner Foundation 2019 Form 990. ^
  13. “Om The Occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the Institute for Justice,” https://www.brucekovner.com/IfJ20thAnniversary.html (accessed November 22, 2021) ^
  14. Kovner Foundation 2019 Form 990. ^
  15. Jay Nordlinger, “The Educators,” Philanthropy, Fall 2016, https://www.philanthropyroundtable.org/philanthropy-magazine/article/fall-2016-the-educators (accessed November 22, 2021.  For more about success Academy, see Martin Morse Wooster.  “Success Academy Charter Schools Provide An Interesting Approach to Education,” Philanthropy Daily, ,December 3, 2019,  https://www.philanthropydaily.com/success-academy-charter-school-provide-an-interesting-approach-to-education/ ,reviewing Robert Pondiscio, How The Other Half Learns.  Avery/Penguin Random House, 2019) ^
  16. Kovner Foundation 2019 Form 990. ^
  17. Kovner Foundation 2019 Form 990. ^

Donation Recipients

  1. ExcelinEd (Non-profit)
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: October 1, 1996

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2015 Dec Form PF $8,233,623 $23,012,365 $219,468,198 $18,984,750 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2014 Dec Form PF $46,155,809 $25,778,519 $239,008,206 $10,081,710 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2013 Dec Form PF $94,296,350 $11,503,664 $203,862,496 $466,480 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2012 Dec Form PF $46,994,885 $11,414,850 $117,443,980 $1,500 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2011 Dec Form PF $42,216,264 $5,499,983 $77,464,855 $34,666 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Kovner Foundation

    1001 N US HWY 10 STE 306
    JUPITER, FL 33477-0000