Barbara Zaragoza 4:30 p.m., May 25
Bloomberg Endorsement of San Diego's Fletcher Focuses Spotlight on New York Intrigue
News late today that New York's billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg had endorsed newly-minted independent California Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher for mayor of San Diego caught many by surprise.
But whether or not Bloomberg's backing can lift the 35-year-old Fletcher from his current third place standing in at least one poll, the move is almost certain to draw attention to an intrigue-fllled New York deal involving Bloomberg and La Jolla's Irwin Jacobs, the billionaire founder of Qualcomm, Inc.
Jacobs has endorsed Bonnie Dumanis in the mayor's race, but virtually everyone else at Qualcomm, including Irwin's son, Qualcomm chairman and CEO Paul Jacobs, his brothers, and assorted spouses, family members, and company employees have come out for Fletcher.
Even Irwin Jacobs himself, despite his professed support for Dumanis, gave Fletcher $500 on March 28; his wife Joan kicked in the same on March 17, according to campaign contribution data posted online by the San Diego city clerk's office.
So it may seem to some more than just a coincidence that the senior Jacobs happens to be a key backer of the New York mayor's favorite hometown project, one with a $2 billion price tag.
On December 20 of last year, Bloomberg announced he had chosen Cornell University to develop an enormous high-tech graduate school and support complex on New York's Roosevelt Island, rejecting a competing proposal made by California's Stanford University, which dropped its bid several days before Bloomberg's announcement.
“Today will be remembered as a defining moment,” Bloomberg told a news conference. “In a word, this project is going to be transformative.”
The giant project is to be built by Cornell with an Israeli partner, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.
According to the Times, Irwin Jacobs, a Cornell alumnus, class of '54, played a key role in putting together a secret plan to bid for the project in conjunction with the Israelis.
"It turned out that a surprising number of professors at each institution had studied or taught at the other," the Times reported.
"They shared major benefactors, including Irwin Jacobs, a cofounder of the telecommunications technology firm Qualcomm, whose advice they would seek on the project."
Money, and the prospect of raising a billion dollars or so more, played a major role in Bloomberg's selection of Cornell over Stanford, according to the Times.
"Stanford, seen as an early front-runner, balked at meeting some of the city’s conditions during negotiations in recent weeks," the paper reported.
"City officials also said it was not clear that Stanford’s entire team — administration, faculty and alumni — was as wholeheartedly behind the project as Cornell’s people were, measured in part by Cornell’s ability to raise money for it."
Irwin Jacobs and his wife Joan, Cornell '52, have been repeatedly recognized by the Ivy League university for their philanthropy.
In 2008, the couple, along with son and daughter-in-law, Gary and Jerri-Ann Jacobs (parents of Adam Jacobs '08), received the Tanner Prize from Cornell Hillel for "their significant contributions to the Jewish people and to Cornell," according to a news release posted on Cornell's website.