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Updated: June 18, 2021

Maine connections helped propel major gift to Maine Med

Courtesy / Maine Medical Center John and Leslie Malone have donated $25 million to support the ongoing expansion at Maine Medical Center. On Thursday, John Malone talked with Mainebiz about why.

John Malone, who with his wife gave $25 million to Maine Medical Center earlier this week, said the gift was propelled by the good care his wife Leslie had received there, but also by the suggestion of a donor with strong Maine ties.  

Malone said he was approached by Paul Coulombe, who with wife Giselaine and daughter Michelle had given $7.5 million two years ago to Maine Med’s expansion effort. The Coulombe Family Tower was named in their honor. The Malones and Coulombes each have homes in the Boothbay area.

Malone is a successful cable and communications executive. Coulombe, a Lewiston native, sold White Rock Distillery more than a decade ago. 

It was several years after Leslie Malone was treated at Maine Med that the idea developed to help the expansion effort. 

Her care “just left a warm feeling, but it didn’t happen right away. It was another 5-6 years. I was pitched by Paul Coulombe on the capital program [at Maine Med] and what they were trying to do,” Malone told Mainebiz in a call Thursday.

“Maine Med is a center of excellence in the state,” Malone said. “That seemed very appealing to us. We’re at the age where we’re becoming more philanthropic. We’ve had assets [in Maine] since 1982. It seemed appropriate that the medical side was something we should support.”

Malone’s gift will help fund the Portland hospital’s ongoing $534 million expansion. A six-story, 265,000-square-foot building now under construction on Congress Street will be named the Malone Family Tower, according to a news release.

Courtesy / Maine Medical Center
A rendering shows the base of the 265,000-square-foot Maine Medical Center expansion, now under construction on Congress Street in Portland. The building will be named the Malone Family Tower in honor of a $25 million gift from John and Leslie Malone.

Malone, 80, was born in Milford, Conn. He is chairman of Liberty Media Corp., a holding company that reported revenues last year of $9.4 billion and has ownership in the SiriusXM satellite radio business, Formula One Group motorsports and the Atlanta Braves baseball team. Liberty is traded under various ticker symbols on the Nasdaq. He is also reportedly the largest landowner in the United States, with 2.2 million acres. 

While he is still involved in business, he said he and his wife are devoting more time to philanthropy, with education, medicine and preservation being the three primary areas of interest. 

His approach to giving has helped fund buildings, but he says the lasting influence comes from the people that are attracted to those places. In several cases, he’s endowed chairs to help attract talent, which in turn attracts grants and funding. 

“Endowing chairs is like seeding a program. Buildings are nice. Those are often the easiest things to raise money for. Figuring out how to populate it is the next step,” he said.  

For instance, at Yale University, Malone helped fund a facility for biomedical research then endowed the chairs that pay research professors’ salaries.

At Johns Hopkins University, where he earned an engineering degree, he helped fund a facility to study “the nexus between medicine and engineering.” The crucial part, he said, was endowing the institute with 15 or 16 chairs. 

“You endow a chair and then go after [researchers in] particular fields that can attract capital. You build an ecosystem. That’s the base theory,” he said. 

He also helped build a stem cell research program at Colorado State, again supporting individual researchers. 
With the Maine Med gift, the idea, again, is to create an attractive place, to attract “state of the art medical professionals who might be in Boston but might prefer a better quality of life in Maine,” Malone said. 

“The environment is important. Quality of life is the No. 1 thing you look for. If you have a nice facility and a great quality of life it’s relatively easy to attract the best people we can,” he said. Maine has “good schools, good places to live.”

He also spoke highly of the institutions that are here, including IDEXX Laboratories, WEX Inc., Covetrus, Roux Institute, Bigelow Lab, Jackson Lab. 

He said that was “absolutely” a foundation that can be built on. 

“You have quality of life combined with starting to get a network of research-minded people,” he said. “With a supportive government — working with industry — have a great foundation.”

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