Caption: Len Ainsworth with his wife and patients Olivia and Conor out the front of the new Sydney Children’s Hospital building.

Sydney Children’s Hospital Foundation is set to announce its largest donation in history today. Greg Johnson reveals which prominent Australian businessman is behind the $5 million pledge.

Sydney Children’s Hospital Foundation has received a major boost to funding of the hospital’s new clinical services wing, with businessman Len Ainsworth committing $5 million towards the project. The Aristocrat founder’s pledge is the largest gift ever made to the Randwick-based hospital.

“We are overwhelmed by the generosity of Len Ainsworth,” said Adam Check, Sydney Children’s Hospital Foundation’s chief executive. “His enduring commitment to the sick and injured children of Sydney Children’s Hospital has enabled our new building to become a reality.”

The new $27.7 million wing, which opens in May this year, will be named the Ainsworth Building following the donation. Amongst the vast array of services housed in the new building is a brain injury rehabilitation unit, an eight-bed child and adolescent mental health unit and a 28-bed short-stay surgical unit.

The donation is not Ainsworth’s first to Sydney Children’s Hospital. He gave $1.5 million to the organisation in 1996, shortly after his initial retirement from the business world, and remained a supporter of the organisation for over 17 years.

Elizabeth Koff, chief executive of Sydney Children’s Hospital, described Ainsworth’s gift as extremely gratifying. “The extraordinary generosity of Mr Ainsworth is extremely gratifying for all of us who work at the hospital,” she said. “It validates the important work we undertake here in caring for sick children and affirms the generosity and support of the community for what we do. We cannot thank Mr Ainsworth enough.”

Ainsworth’s gift is the second major donation announced by Sydney Children’s Hospital Foundation in recent weeks. It has also received a pledge of $1.2 million from a New South Wales-based foundation over the next three years.

Who is Len Ainsworth?

Ainsworth is a stalwart of the gambling machine industry, having founded Aristocrat Leisure in 1953. He split the company into nine equal shares and distributed them between his seven children and his past and present wives in 1994 following a diagnosis of cancer, but that left him locked out of the multi-billion dollar empire he’d created when he overcame the disease.

The now 89-year-old then launched Ainsworth Game Technology to take on Aristocrat, which his family still collectively owns a 35% stake in. Forbes’ 2013 Australia’s 50 Richest list put Ainsworth’s net wealth at $1.05 billion.

Ainsworth announced early last year that more than half of his fortune would go to charity, with a specific focus on medical related causes. The philanthropic intent was drafted into his will but a foundation structure was also being put in place, according to an interview he gave at the time.

Ainsworth’s sons are also known for their philanthropy, with Paul Ainsworth and his wife Valerie donating $2 million to Westmead Millennium Institute in 2007. Geoffrey Ainsworth and his wife Vicki have given over $1 million to Art Gallery of NSW, and are recognised as donors to a raft of other cultural and arts organisations.

Greg Johnson is the editor of Fundraising & Philanthropy Magazine.

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