Private equity executive Edgar Bronfman, Jr., whose family includes well-known supporters of Israel, is calling for the leaders the University of Pennsylvania to step down due to their response to the Hamas terror attacks against Israel, CNN has learned.
Bronfman, a former media executive and Seagrams scion, argues UPenn President Liz Magill and Chairman Scott Bok “greatly dishonored the legacy” of the Ivy League school by “abandoning principle for popularity and clarity for consensus.”
“The University’s decision not to firmly and unequivocally denounce the horrendous deeds of October 7 and rather to seek a consensus path among its many constituencies is a morally bankrupt choice,” Bronfman wrote to Magill in a November 6th email obtained by CNN. “It is the worst form of appeasement.”
Bronfman joins a growing group of business leaders demanding a change in leadership at one of America’s most powerful universities.
Private equity billionaire Marc Rowan has led a donor campaign calling for Magill’s resignation that includes “Law & Order” founder Dick Wolf, former US Ambassador Jon Huntsman and hedge fund billionaire Cliff Asness.
In the email, Bronfman said Bok and Magill must resign because “their egregious errors and lapses have rendered each of them incapable of leading the University of Pennsylvania.” Bronfman noted that he is a parent of undergraduates at Penn, Wharton, New York University, Bard, Harvard and Georgetown.
College campuses have experienced a surge in tensions since the October 7 terror attack by Hamas and as the Israel-Hamas war continues.
Last week, UPenn said it alerted the FBI to a series of threatening antisemitic emails sent to university staff. Those emails threatened violence against members of the Jewish community, though no credit threats were found following police sweeps, UPenn said.
Antisemitic messages were also projected onto several UPenn campus buildings last week.
UPenn declined to comment on the Bronfman email.
Magill, who has led the school for just over a year following a stint at the University of Virginia, issued a statement three days after the Hamas terror attack saying the school is “devastated by the horrific assault on Israel by Hamas” and said the “abhorrent attacks have resulted in the tragic loss of life and escalating violence and unrest in the region.”
Magill issued another statement on October 15 stressing that she and the university are “horrified by and condemn Hamas’s terrorist assault on Israel and their violent atrocities against civilians,” adding that there is “no justification – none – for these heinous attacks.”
Earlier this month, Magill announced a new action plan to fight antisemitism and also posted an Instagram message condemning the antisemitic messages posted on university buildings. “Posting hateful messages on our campus is not debate, it is cowardice, and it has no place at Penn,” Magill said.
Bronfman, who is currently the chairman and general partner of Waverly Capital, a venture capital firm focused on the media, entertainment and sports industries, argued in his email that UPenn leaders have “profoundly failed” to stand for what is right and stand against what is wrong.
“This blurring of Hate speech as free speech is exactly what the University has enabled – even encouraged,” Bronfman wrote. “Students speaking their minds with hate and ignorance, or professors doing the same, or people ripping down posters of kidnapped children, etc., – all of this should be intolerable and unacceptable.”
Bronfman, the former CEO of the Warner Music Group and Seagram, previously served as the chair of The Lauder Institute, a Wharton business program.
Bronfman’s father, Edgar Bronfman Sr., led the World Jewish Congress, an organization that aims to protect Jewish communities from around the world from discrimination. In 1999, he was awarded the presidential medal of freedom, America’s highest civilian honor.
The email from Bronfman did not specifically mention Palestine Writes, the multiday literature festival held at the University of Pennsylvania in September that has become a focal point of criticism from some donors.