Jacobs forgoes pledge Eye institute hoped for $3 million

February 27, 1993|By Jon Morgan and Mark Hyman | Jon Morgan and Mark Hyman,Staff Writers

Baltimore Orioles owner Eli S. Jacobs has not fulfilled a $3 million pledge to Johns Hopkins' Wilmer Opthalmological Institute, according to people familiar with fund raising for the world-renowned eye center.

The pledge, made shortly after Mr. Jacobs bought the team in 1989, was to have been followed the next year by a $1 million payment, according to one person knowledgeable about the arrangement. The source, who asked to remain unidentified, said the rest of the money was to be paid in later installments. None of the money has been received, the source said.

The team owner and New York financier serves on the boards of Johns Hopkins University and the Johns Hopkins Health Systems Corp., which oversees the hospital and other entities.

"I was happy to see he was doing something that was so community oriented, and I was disturbed to see him reneging on it," said City Councilman Anthony Ambridge, D-2nd, of Mr. Jacobs' promised gift. Mr. Ambridge, whose district includes the hospital, has served on a variety of the hospital's boards, including one currently that oversees the Hopkins Medical Services Corp.

The councilman said he was told by another Hopkins board member familiar with Wilmer fund raising that Mr. Jacobs had not fulfilled his commitment.

"He made the pledge at a time when he was in the pink," Mr. Ambridge said.

Over the past two years, the team owner has fallen upon hard financial times. Four banks, the owner of his rented office in New York and a group of investors have filed separate suits against him, alleging nonpayment of more than $44 million in loans and guarantees. He is now negotiating the sale of the team to a group led by Cincinnati business man William O. DeWitt Jr.

Mr. Jacobs, through a spokesman, said yesterday that he did not know the status of the pledge. Wilmer officials declined to comment, citing a policy against discussing donors.

Wilmer has concluded that the pledge will not be honored, according to Mr. Ambridge and the other source familiar with its fund raising.

The Orioles owner, who has an eye ailment, has been a patient of Dr. A. Edward Maumenee, an internationally recognized eye specialist and a former director of Wilmer.

Mr. Jacobs has fulfilled other charitable pledges in Baltimore. He pledged at least $50,000 to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra for the 1989-1990 fund-raising season, and sources there said he has kept his promise. He also serves on the symphony's board.

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