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Hedge fund grad gives Wharton $25M for Tangen Hall

"A game-changing facility" at 40th and Sansom will arrive courtesy of Nicolai Tangen of AKO Capital.

Nicolai Tengen donated $25 million to the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.
Nicolai Tengen donated $25 million to the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.Read moreWharton School

A U.K.-based hedge fund founder has given the Wharton School $25 million to build the university's first dedicated space for cross-campus student entrepreneurs and name it after him. The gift also includes money for foreign-student scholarships.

Nicolai Tangen, who served briefly in the Norwegian intelligence service as an interrogator focused on Russians, before attending the University of Pennsylvania's business school as an undergraduate from 1988-92, is spearheading construction of Tangen Hall, a 70,000-square-foot building that will consolidate entrepreneurship programs from Wharton and other Penn schools at 40th and Sansom Streets, now a Penn parking lot.

The building, funded in part by the foundation started by Tangen and his wife, Katja, is to be completed in 2020. "We've been working on this for three years," said Karl Ulrich, vice dean for entrepreneurship and innovation at Wharton.

Last year, the Wharton Board of Overseers reviewed the general proposal for a Penn entrepreneurship building and Tangen, a board member, pulled aside Dean Geoffrey Garrett "and said he wanted to do this," Ulrich said. He expected "hundreds" of other donors would contribute to the project, which is still being designed. A final cost estimate is expected in January.

In 2005, Tangen founded AKO Capital, which manages $14 billion in long- and short-stock investments, betting for, and sometimes against, companies' future share values. In 2016, the Sunday Times ranked him among the 20 most successful hedge fund managers in Britain, with a personal fortune of 280 million pounds (about $370 million).

Tangen Hall will include meeting spaces, a cafe, a Venture Lab for Penn Engineering manufacturing programs, a new home for Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship, the Goergen Entrepreneurial Management Program, the Weiss Tech House, the Sol C. Snider Entrepreneurial Research Center, the Wharton Small Business Development Center, and Wharton's Integrated Product Design program.

It will also include storefront retail space for student ventures, a test kitchen for food start-ups, and a Maker Lab with 3D printers and other digital tools, for use by student entrepreneurs developing products and services, Wharton said.

Tangen said in a statement that he and his wife are "continually inspired by Penn students" and hope "to engage with them and set them up for success."

Garrett, the Wharton dean, called Tangen Hall "a game-changing facility for innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology."

The Tangen scholarship program will help foreign undergraduates "who otherwise could not afford the cost of a Penn education," the school said. The couple has paid tuition for 22 Penn undergrads since 2012. Room, board, and tuition at Penn typically cost more than $70,000 a year for those without financial aid.

Tangen serves on Wharton's Board of Overseers. The contribution is part of Wharton's ongoing "More than Ever" campaign. Wharton enrolls 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students and offers part-time courses to 13,000, mostly people in business.