Oxford drops college renaming after Vietnam billionaire's failed $189 million donation: report

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A constituent college at Oxford University has scrapped plans to rename itself after a Vietnamese billionaire after her donation failed to see the light of day, according to a report.

Background: Linacre College, an interdisciplinary graduate college, was poised to receive 155 million pounds ($189.3 million) from Vietnamese investment group SOVICO under a memorandum of understanding signed in 2021. The college, which was named after 15th-century English scholar Thomas Linacre, was to be renamed into Thao College after SOVICO’s chairwoman, Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao.

About Thao: Thao is reportedly Southeast Asia’s first self-made woman billionaire. In 2011, she launched Vietnam’s first budget airline, VietJet, which has since been known for featuring flight attendants in bikinis.

Donation controversy: Since its announcement, the plan had reportedly received backlash from some alumni. Doubts over the college’s renaming first surfaced last June after Thao failed to deliver a first payment — 50 million pounds ($61.07 million) — on deadline.

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On Saturday, The Telegraph reported that the plan was dropped altogether after the donation failed to materialize. The cause, according to the outlet, were restrictions on outward donations imposed by the communist Vietnamese government, whom Thao has close ties to, as per the Daily Mail.

What’s next: Linacre, Oxford and SOVICO have yet to publicly comment on the matter. Thao, for her part, is reportedly considering donating to the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Vietnam, where scientists research infectious diseases, The Telegraph noted.


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