ANALYSIS: Prospective donor previously withdrew promised donation from Coastal Carolina University

A celebrated $237 million donation from an alleged hemp farmer will likely not hit the bank account of Florida A&M University.

It would be the second major pledge from 30-year-old Gregory Gerami, who runs Batterson Farms, to fall through in recent years. The controversy led to a university official resigning from a fundraising role as well.

The university announced the donation with a giant check during its graduation in early May, but in the ensuing weeks it has appeared less likely it will receive the money. “By the way, the money is in the bank,” Gerami said during the ceremony.

That appears not to be true.

Batterson Farms has not responded to two emailed requests for comment sent in the past week. The College Fix asked if Gerami (pictured) had a response to accusations against him and if he could explain the stock valuation for his company.

He told the Tallahassee Democrat in mid-May he stands by his pledge, following a special board of trustees meeting called to discuss the donation. “The university and other folks and the media are doing things that are premature because we don’t even have a valuation,” he said in a May 18 article.

The initial announcement drew questions from faculty, alumni, and others due to the farm’s small online presence. The company’s simple website did not even exist when The Fix checked on June 7. The Batterson Farms Instagram page is equally empty, with just 156 followers.

Gerami also backed out of a $95 million pledge to Coast Carolina University in 2020, citing “racism.” “I’ve put up with drama[,] lack of communication[,] racism and comments back and forth[,] no reply,” Gerami wrote.

CCU continues to uphold its agreement to keep Gerami anonymous, despite public knowledge that the donor was Gerami following an investigation by The Myrtle Beach Sun News. Gerami told the newspaper he was the donor, but then said he was representing someone else, before saying he was the person in the agreement.

The university denies the racism claims.

“CCU does not have knowledge of the context of these claims. As expressed in our Prohibition Against Discrimination Policy, Coastal Carolina University does not discriminate on the basis of race,” spokesperson Jerry Rashid told The Fix.

The university pulled the plug because “the donor, who will continue to remain anonymous, did not fulfill an early expectation of the arrangement causing the University to reevaluate and ultimately terminate the agreement.”

FAMU signed a non-disclosure agreement as well.

“The university was not allowed to speak about the gift details outside of a select few during the process of finalizing the donation, according to former Vice President for University Advancement and Executive Director of the FAMU Foundation Shawnta Friday-Stroud,” the Tallahassee Democrat reported on May 17. “She stepped down from the dual role [May 15], but will remain full-time dean of the School of Business and Industry.”

The university did not respond to two emailed requests for comment about the donation, sent in the past two weeks.

The decision drew criticism from Roland Martin, who noted references to the donation have been scrubbed from FAMU’s social media pages.

“This stock that [Gerami] gave the university…is really worthless. No one can identify if he actually has a farm,” the “Black Star Network” commentator said during a May 13 episode.

“He’s claimed to have 7,000 contract workers, he’s claimed to have farms in multiple states, and none of that can actually be confirmed.”

MORE: Kendi’s ‘Antiracist’ center is racist, according to his own standards


Like The College Fix on Facebook / Follow us on Twitter

 Prospective donor previously withdrew promised donation from Coastal Carolina University.  Read More