Florida A&M University President Larry Robinson announced Thursday that the school was putting the brakes on a reported $237 million donation that had recently been announced. The incredible sum, coming from a source with very little publicly available information and a spotty track record for similar promises, had been the source of intense skepticism ever since it was announced.

Record-breaking donation put "on hold"

Robinson made the announcement that the university would “pause” the donation during an emergency meeting with board members of FAMU’s fundraising foundation. “With regards to the gift and the processing of it and so forth, in terms of future processing, we’ve already decided it’s in our best interest to put that on hold,” Robinson said during a Zoom meeting with board members, per Politico. The board, as well as others within and outside of FAMU, have been skeptical since Texas-based hydroponic farmer Gregory Gerami announced during Saturday’s commencement ceremony that he was donating over $230 million in stock in his Batterson Farms Corporation; the donation would be the largest ever to an HBCU. The fundraising board, which was not informed of the deal ahead of time, requested Thursday’s meeting, while the board of trustees has requested its own meeting for next week.

Details emerge but questions remain

Local CBS affiliate WCTV obtained a copy of the agreement made with the school. According to the news station, Gregory Gerami and the Isaac Batterson Family 7th Trust were donating “14 million shares of stock of intrinsic value worth at least $239,000,000,” as well as an additional $61 million over the next 10 years. The agreement does not seem to address the concerns that have been raised about Gerami’s ability to make good on the promise of such large sums. Further fueling skepticism is a report that Gerami made a pledge in 2020 to donate $95 million to Coastal Carolina University but that that deal ultimately fell apart, WCTV reported.

Uncertainty about what value — if any — the stock holds

In a series of tweets that gained attention this week, one user explained that the type of stocked donated to FAMU “hold ‘intrinsic value’ as they are essentially self-assigned a price.” What this means is that “these shares can be created out of thin air and be stated as having X-amount of intrinsic value.” Furthermore, the value of the shares can only be converted into actual cash if the provider of those stocks agrees to buy them back, “but the owner has the option at any time of saying, ‘No, I don’t want to,” which could leave these shares worthless.

Without knowing whether or not Gerami and his company have the money, and the desire, to make good on their promise to FAMU, the actual value of the promised stock is unknown. More generally, much remains unclear about the current status of the pledge to FAMU or the future of the donation.