Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the biggest shareholder in Citigroup Inc., gave 8 million pounds ($15.7 million) each to the U.K. universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh to start Islamic studies research centers.
Alwaleed signed an agreement yesterday at London's Buckingham Palace in the company of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and Chancellor of both universities, the Arab investor's Riyadh-based Kingdom Foundation said in an e-mailed statement today.
"It is paramount for both Islam and the West to reach mutual ground for proactive dialogue, respect, acceptance and tolerance," Alwaleed said in the statement.
Alwaleed is the wealthiest Arab and the world's 19th-richest person with a fortune of $21 billion, according to Forbes magazine's annual rich list. In 2005 he gave $20 million each to Harvard and Georgetown universities in the U.S. to expand their studies of Islam and the Muslim world after helping finance a center for American studies at the American University in Beirut and a humanities building at the American University in Cairo.
Gifts from Alwaleed, nephew of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, haven't always been well-received in the U.S. Shortly after the September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, he offered $10 million to the Twin Towers Fund. The donation was rejected by then-New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in protest at Alwaleed's criticisms of U.S. policy in the Middle East.