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Oxford Claims There's No Room For Old EJ Art

Monday 19 May 2008 @ 17:54 - GMT

On the eve of a campaign by Oxford University to raise £1 billion, the institution has so alienated one of its most generous donors that he is threatening to cut ties with it, according to The Times

Zvi Meitar, who is one of Israels richest men and who now lives in London, accused the university of ridiculous, foolish and offensive behaviour that has left him and his family distraught.

Meitars anger was sparked by Oxfords rejection of his offer of a £1m sculpture, once owned by Elton.

The 74-year-old lawyer, said that as a result, at least £2m worth of gifts to Oxford were in question and he was considering giving up donating to the university.

There was a big future, he said. Now the whole thing is in question. He added: I dont think anybody at Oxford really cares about this. Its sad. Its not only sad, its ridiculous, its foolish.

The appeal, Oxford Thinking, will be launched on May 28 at the British Academy in central London by Lord Patten, the universitys chancellor, and John Hood, the vice-chancellor. 

Zvi emphasised that he enjoyed excellent relations with Hood who had apologised for the statue affair and with senior officials at the Bodleian Library. He blamed members of committees he had never met for declining the donation.

Meitars four-ton 10ft statue was carved in the 18th century by Sir Henry Cheere in memory of Sir George Cooke, a Tory MP.

A spokeswoman for Oxford said the university had tried to find a suitable position for the white marble piece and regretted having to reject it. She added that Meitar was a highly valued benefactor with whom the institution hopes to continue its relationship.