Even after all of the drama surrounding his supposed donation to Florida A&M and the skepticism surrounding it, Gregory Gerami still stands by the value of the stocks he donated. TaMaryn Waters of The Tallahassee Democrat spoke with Gerami about the latest updates in the ongoing saga of Florida A&M accepting what was purported to be $237 million in stock, announced at the institution's Spring Commencement earlier this month.

During an emergency FAMU Foundation meeting, university president Dr. Larry Robinson announced that the supposed donation was put on pause.

“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,” he said during the meeting.

Robinson reported that the school would pause progress until assessing the value of the stocks gifted by Gregory Gerami, CEO of Batterson Farms Corp and a trustee of the Isaac Batterson Family 7th Trust that made the donation. He then spoke at Florida A&M's Board of Trustees meeting about the donation and took responsibility for the fallout surrounding the spectacle.

“I saw in this unprecedented gift, the potential to serve our students and our athletic programs in ways unimaginable at that time. It would truly be transformational, I believe. I wanted this to be real and ignore the warning signs along the way. There was no personal gain, but the impact on our students and our university would have been extraordinary.”

Per Gerami, he hasn't heard from Florida A&M about the donation being paused and didn't watch the emergency FAMU Foundation meeting because he was on vacation.

“I have not received information that they were going to pull from the gift,” Gerami told Waters. “It's premature, and I can't speak for FAMU and I have no issues with FAMU … My commitment still remains.”

He added, “The university and other folks and the media are doing things that are premature because we don't even have a valuation.”

Gerami also confirmed that he wasn't invited to speak at the FAMU Foundation Emergency Meeting nor the Board of Trustees meeting that occurred on last Wednesday. By his comments to the Tallahassee Democrat, Gerami is open to cooperating in the external investigation voted on by the Florida A&M Board of Trustees.

“It depends on what's asked,” he told the publication.

He added, “We also understand that transparency is key to an extent,” he said. “We also must protect our business and our proprietary information. So having a third party evaluate our business and determine the stock price, I think (that is) most important in this whole situation.”

How did we get here?

There are a number of factors swirling around the situation that triggered concern from the FAMU and HBCU community. Limited information is available about Gregory Gerami, the Issac Batterson 7th Family Trust, or Gerami's company, the Batterson Farms Corporation. Searches on Google for Gerami before the alleged $237 million donation yielded minimal results.

Following growing skepticism about Gerami and his donation, Florida A&M's Office of Communications released a statement, saying,

“While Florida A&M University (FAMU) is still extremely excited about Mr. Gregory Gerami's historic announcement yesterday of the Isaac Batterson Family 7th Trust, we are fully aware of the skepticism that sometimes comes with such a large gift.

As expected, some individuals in the public are and will continue researching Mr. Gerami. Please know that FAMU has done its due diligence when it comes to this matter. Additionally, Mr. Gerami has and continues to do his own due diligence on things that have been and are happening at FAMU.

While a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) we signed prevents us from disclosing many details, as was reported on May 4 – Mr. Gerami transferred $237,750,000 worth of stocks into our account last month. Mr. Gerami's $237,750,000 stock transfer was received in the same manner in which we have accepted all other stocks donated to the University through the FAMU Foundation Inc. As with any non-cash gift received, such as cryptocurrency, real estate, and stocks, it will be converted to cash and recorded appropriately.

Again, we greatly appreciate Mr. Gerami's and the Isaac Batterson Family 7th Trust's generosity. Our students will be the true beneficiaries of their most generous contribution.

Previous attempts at donations for Gerami to two other institutions have not materialized. Gerami was slated to donate $95 million to Coastal Carolina anonymously in 2020, per a report by The Sun News in June 2023, but talks fell through because Gerami felt disrespected.

“If you can’t hold to y’all word and verbal agreement as such is in Alabama and Texas the time of the agreement, then I have nothing else to say to ccu or to deal with ccu,” Gerami reportedly sent to former Coastal Carolina President David DeCenzo and Bryan Steros, former interim vice president for philanthropy in September 2020.

The Sun News report also reports that he was slated to donate money to Miles College. However, the donation was never allocated.

Robinson and Shawnta Friday-Stroud, the now former executive director of the FAMU Foundation, frequently mentioned a signed non-disclosure agreement as the rationale for not disclosing the information.

Friday-Stroud's account of discussions with Gerami regarding donations to the institution and the developments leading to his commencement speech and the alleged donation revealed that Florida A&M had not contacted Coastal Carolina or Miles College to verify Gerami's background and history of interactions with them.

“After having several conversations with Mr. Gerami, Ms. Simmons-Smith put together a proposal of certain programs that she thought he might be interested in supporting. She also had an initial screening done of him…From there, we decided on an initial amount based on what he was interested in supporting here at FAMU. After having conversations with those individuals, we came up with an amount.”

Gerami aimed to increase his “donation” after hearing that Spelman College received a $100 million donation from philanthropist Rhonda Stryker and her husband, William Johnston, Chairman of Greenleaf Trust, in mid-January. Stryker's single donation was noted as the largest ever to an HBCU. Unlike Gerami, Stryker has a long-standing connection with Spelman. She has been a Spelman College Trustee since 1997, serving for 27 years.

Since the Board of Trustees meeting and FAMU Foundation Meeting, Friday-Stroud resigned from her position as executive director of the FAMU Foundation.

The Rattler Nation Blog obtained a quote from University president Dr. Larry Robinson announcing the departure of Stroud, saying, “Earlier today, Dr. Shawnta Friday-Stroud tendered her resignation from her position as VP for Advancement. After careful consideration, I accepted her resignation. Dr. Friday-Stroud will return to serve as the Dean of the School of Business and Industry.”

The Florida A&M Board of Trustees also voted in favor of an external investigation process and procedures last Wednesday.

The Tallahassee Democrat also obtained the non-disclosure agreement with Gerami, signed on April 26th. According to an unnamed university official as reported by the Tallahassee Democrat, the NDA was signed by Robinson, Friday-Stroud, Director of Development Audrey Simmons-Smith, Athletics Director Tiffani-Dawn Sykes, Director of The Center for Disability Access and Resources (CeDAR) Deborah Sullivan, and Director of Communications Keith Miles.

Friday-Stroud signed the agreement for the FAMU Foundation, while the line for “Gregory Gerami and or Batterson Farms Corp” remained empty, mirroring the unfilled signature line for a representative of the Isaac Batterson Family 7th Trust in the $237 million gift agreement.

Read the full document from the Tallahassee Democrat.