First round: Monumental generosity

Carlyle Group founder David Rubenstein earned the gratitude of his fellow Washingtonians this month by promising to donate a whopping $7.5 million to fix the Washington Monument, which has been closed since last August because of earthquake damage.

The National Park Service had previously said that the 555-foot obelisk would be closed indefinitely – but thanks to Rubenstein’s generosity, coupled with a matching grant from the federal government, it should be fixed and re-opened in about a year or so. Rubenstein told the Washington Post that he’s a big fan of public-private partnerships (which First Round can’t help feeling is a slightly odd admission for someone who’s made his fortune taking things private).

Apparently this is just the latest in a string of philanthropic endeavours by the Carlyle founder. For instance, First Round was intrigued to learn that he recently donated $4.5 million to the National Zoo’s giant panda programme, which is all about trying to get the zoo’s two pandas to mate.

Admittedly, Rubenstein can afford to be generous: it emerged this month that he and his fellow co-founders each took home $134 million last year, as their share of Carlyle’s bumper 2011 profits. And while First Round would never claim to be an expert on the ins and outs of this particular area, presumably there’s only so much you can spend convincing a pair of pandas to get it on?