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University of Manchester returns Greensill Capital donation

Image: Mike Peel [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Institution to “discontinue” £2.5 million gift agreement with Greensill following firm’s collapse

The University of Manchester has returned a multi-million-pound donation from Greensill Capital, the collapsed financial services company at the centre of a lobbying scandal involving former prime minister David Cameron.

Research Professional News has learnt that the University of Manchester returned the portion of the £2.5 million donation that Greensill Capital had paid it so far. The university said it believes this is the “right and proper” course of action.

Greensill Capital, a company that offered supply chain financing services, went into administration in March this year. Its founder, Lex Greensill, is an alumnus of the university’s Alliance Manchester Business School.

The firm’s collapse led to a lobbying scandal after it emerged Cameron, who became an employee at Greensill Capital in 2018, sent texts to chancellor Rishi Sunak and other members of the cabinet asking for Greensill to be given access to loans through the government’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility scheme.

Several parliamentary committees and the National Audit Office are conducting inquiries into Greensill’s collapse and Cameron’s lobbying.

Donation background

In 2019, the University of Manchester announced it had secured a £2.5m donation from Greensill Capital to help the university “drive the fintech agenda in the north-west”. The donation was to fund a Greensill Chair in Fintech at the school, along with two lecturer jobs, two post-doctoral research fellows and four PhD scholarships over the next five years.

At the time, University of Manchester vice-chancellor Nancy Rothwell said the “generous donation” would help Manchester “spearhead the understanding and sharing of fintech expertise across business communities locally, nationally and globally”.

She added that the academic roles funded by the donation would “enable us to carry out ground-breaking research” in fintech and “help us to create strong links with businesses, policymakers and authorities”.

But a University of Manchester spokesperson told Research Professional News that the university had decided to give back money it had received from Greensill Capital following the company’s collapse.

“We have agreed with Greensill Capital to discontinue the gift agreement that was previously in place,” they said. “We also believe it is the right and proper course to return the gift payment made to date, which was part of the original donation amount. This means that the University of Manchester and its Alliance Manchester Business School and Greensill will no longer partner on fintech research and activities.”

The spokesperson stressed that the university is still “committed to an ambitious fintech agenda in teaching and research” and said the chair financed by the donation would be retained and renamed.

Administrators for Greensill Capital declined Research Professional News’s invitation to comment.

Advisory board links

Meanwhile, Daniel Shuttleworth, an alumnus of the Alliance Manchester Business School and managing director at Greensill, was appointed to the Alliance Manchester Business School advisory board in February this year—the month before the firm went into administration.

The University of Manchester spokesperson said Shuttleworth “remains a member of AMBS’ advisory board”.

Shuttleworth first met Greensill at an event at the University of Manchester. According to a release by the University at the time of his appointment to the Business School advisory board, Shuttleworth said, “Lex had come to do a talk as part of the MBA speaker series, and I asked an impertinent question whilst chatting to him in a breakout session after the lecture and it went from there. In more ways than one the MBA at AMBS opened a lot of doors for me.”