The University of Minnesota has suspended discussions with donors linked to the potential merger of the Fairview Health Systems with Sanford Health of South Dakota until the future of the U Medical Center is resolved.

The moratorium would cover any potential gifts from  T. Denny Sanford, a wealthy alumnus who has been courted heavily for major contributions to the Golden Gopher athletic fund. Sanford is a prominent figure at Sanford Health, which he launched in 2007 with a $400 million donation.

University of Minnesota General Counsel Mark Rotenberg announced the moratorium at a Sunday hearing at the state Capitol called by  Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson. Rotenburg said the new policy  should assure Minnesotans that any merger talks involving a change in control of the University of Minnesota Medical Center – now owned by Fairview – won’t be tainted by potential conflicts involving any “gifts for football or athletics or anything else.’’

Swanson welcomed the moratorium. She said at the packed hearing that Minnesota taxpayers have a major stake not only in the future of the U of M’s medical franchise, but also in century-old Fairview, which has grown in large part due to its tax-exempt status and gifts of land and other assets from the state and Minnesotans who have supported the non-profit.

She said her job is to protect Minnesota’s investments in the U and Fairview and to make sure the assets are not inappropriately siphoned off to an out-of-state company.