London, June 25 : A Romanian-born Israeli who served with the Royal Navy as a young man, has donated three million pounds to ensure the full renovation of the 1869 clipper, the "Cutty Sark", which was destroyed by a mysterious fire in Greenwich, south-east London, last year.
Reclusive shipping magnate Sammy Ofer's gift is the biggest single donation to the fundraising project for the ship and comes only three months after he gave 20 million pounds to the National Maritime Museum, itself the biggest act of cultural philanthropy by an individual in Britain, reports The Independent.
A long-term renovation project of the historic vessel suffered a setback when it was engulfed by a fire in which flames reached 1000C in May last year.
All the wooden decks of the ship were destroyed in the short but intense blaze, while the hull timbers were badly scorched. More seriously, the iron frames supporting the woodwork were buckled and bent by the heat.
Despite one million pound in donations in the month following the fire, there were mounting concerns that the fundraising project would fall through and the cutter, an embodiment of Britain's former maritime prowess, would have to be abandoned.
In response to the blaze, the Heritage Lottery Fund increased its contribution by 10 million pounds to 23 million pounds, but that still left the Cutty Sark Trust, which is overlooking the renovation, well short of its target.
That was until Ofer stepped in with his donation.
The 86-year-old billionaire, who lives in Monaco and was ranked 226 in the Forbes world rich list last year.
The restored clipper will "float" nine feet above the bottom of her dry berth. The space below will become a gallery open to the public and hired out for private functions. The gallery will be renamed in Ofer's honour, the trust said.
Ofer served in the Navy in the Mediterranean during the Second World War before building up a large shipping company. A significant proportion of his fleet operates from London.
According to Forbes, his family also has interests in banking and real estate, and other companies under his ownership have profited from soaring chemical and oil prices across the world.