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  1. #1
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    The Billionaire Who Wanted To Die Broke . . . Is Now Officially Broke

    Charles “Chuck” Feeney, 89, who cofounded airport retailer Duty Free Shoppers with Robert Miller in 1960, amassed billions while living a life of monklike frugality. As a philanthropist, he pioneered the idea of Giving While Living—spending most of your fortune on big, hands-on charity bets instead of funding a foundation upon death. Since you can't take it with you—why not give it all away, have control of where it goes and see the results with your own eyes?

    “We learned a lot. We would do some things differently, but I am very satisfied. I feel very good about completing this on my watch,” Feeney tells Forbes. “My thanks to all who joined us on this journey. And to those wondering about Giving While Living: Try it, you'll like it.”

    Over the last four decades, Feeney has donated more than $8 billion to charities, universities and foundations worldwide through his foundation, the Atlantic Philanthropies. When I first met him in 2012, he estimated he had set aside about $2 million for his and his wife's retirement. In other words, he's given away 375,000% more money than his current net worth. And he gave it away anonymously. While many wealthy philanthropists enlist an army of publicists to trumpet their donations, Feeney went to great lengths to keep his gifts secret. Because of his clandestine, globe-trotting philanthropy campaign, Forbes called him the  James Bond of Philanthropy.

    But Feeney has come in from the cold. The man who amassed a fortune selling luxury goods to tourists, and later launched private equity powerhouse General Atlantic, lives in an apartment in San Francisco that has the austerity of a freshman dorm room. When I visited a few years ago, inkjet-printed photos of friends and family hung from the walls over a plain, wooden table. On the table sat a small Lucite plaque that read: “Congratulations to Chuck Feeney for $8 billion of philanthropic giving.”

    That's Feeney—understated profile, oversize impact. No longer a secret, his extreme charity and big-bet grants have won over the most influential entrepreneurs and philanthropists. His stark generosity and gutsy investments influenced Bill Gates and Warren Buffett when they launched the Giving Pledge in 2010—an aggressive campaign to convince the world’s wealthiest to give away at least half their fortunes before their deaths. “Chuck was a cornerstone in terms of inspiration for the Giving Pledge,” says Warren Buffett. “He’s a model for us all. It’s going to take me 12 years after my death to get done what he’s doing within his lifetime.” 

    Feeney gave big money to big problems—whether bringing peace to Northern Ireland, modernizing Vietnam’s health care system, or spending $350 million to turn New York’s long-neglected Roosevelt Island into a technology hub. He didn’t wait to grant gifts after death or set up a legacy fund that annually tosses pennies at a $10 problem. He hunted for causes where he can have a dramatic impact and went all-in.

    In 2019, I worked with the Atlantic Philanthropies on a report titled Zero Is the Hero, which summarized Feeney’s decades of go-for-broke giving. While it contains hundreds of numbers, stats and data points, Feeney summarized his mission in a few sentences. “I see little reason to delay giving when so much good can be achieved through supporting worthwhile causes. Besides, it’s a lot more fun to give while you live than give while you're dead.”

    On September 14, 2020, Feeney completed his four-decade mission and signed the documents to shutter the Atlantic Philanthropies. The ceremony, which happened over Zoom with the Atlantic Philanthropies’ board, included video messages from Bill Gates and former California Gov. Jerry Brown. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sent an official letter from the U.S. Congress thanking Feeney for his work.

    At its height, the Atlantic Philanthropies had 300-plus employees and ten global offices across seven time zones. The specific closure date was set years ago as part of his long-term plan to make high-risk, high-impact donations by setting a hard deadline to give away all his money and close shop. The 2020 expiration date added urgency and discipline. It gave the Atlantic Philanthropies the time to document its history, reflect on wins and losses and create a strategy for other institutions to follow. As Feeney told me in 2019: “Our giving is based on the opportunities, not a plan to stay in business for a long time.” 


    While his philanthropy is out of business, its influence reverberates worldwide thanks to its big bets on health, science, education and social action. Where did $8 billion go? Feeney gave $3.7 billion to education, including nearly $1 billion to his alma mater, Cornell, which he attended on the G.I. Bill. More than $870 million went to human rights and social change, like $62 million in grants to abolish the death penalty in the U.S. and $76 million for grassroots campaigns supporting the passage of Obamacare. He gave more than $700 million in gifts to health ranging from a $270 million grant to improve public healthcare in Vietnam to a $176 million gift to the Global Brain Health Institute at the University of California, San Francisco.

    One of Feeney’s final gifts, $350 million for Cornell to build a technology campus on New York City’s Roosevelt Island, is a classic example of his giving philosophy. While notoriously frugal in his own life, Feeney was ready to spend big and go for broke when the value and potential impact outweighed the risk.

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevenb.../#7b099ca73a2a


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  2. #2
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  3. #3
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    America might have many billionaires but they give a lot back into society sometimes to shape it in their own way(which is what many millennials have a problem with) but still they do but ofcourse tax evasion and political lobbying is a problem.


    In cricket, my superhero is Sachin Tendulkar. He has always been my hero.
    -Virat Kohli

  4. #4
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    I wonder how many of us could do this? Lose all wealth and power to become ordinary again?


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  5. #5
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    Awesome guy

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by JaDed View Post
    America might have many billionaires but they give a lot back into society sometimes to shape it in their own way(which is what many millennials have a problem with) but still they do but ofcourse tax evasion and political lobbying is a problem.
    US has a huge culture of giving back. It's very low in Europe. I am not sure why its the case.

    I know another person who wants to earn and give back 1B before he dies. I am pretty sure he will do it as well.


    "If this happens I will swim across the Charles River! In winter!" -- OZGOD on NZ batting 6 sessions

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Buffet View Post
    US has a huge culture of giving back. It's very low in Europe. I am not sure why its the case.

    I know another person who wants to earn and give back 1B before he dies. I am pretty sure he will do it as well.
    Maybe the US has more wealth allowing to give away more?

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by msaaim89 View Post
    Maybe the US has more wealth allowing to give away more?
    Europe has similar GDP with more population, but there is enough wealth. I wasn't really talking absolute amount here. That may differ, but if you simply take billionaires in US and Europe , you will see difference when it comes to proportion of wealth they give. Sure, Giving pledge started by Warren Buffett may have created influence in recent decade, but I am simply looking at history.

    You can check out , https://givingpledge.org/ if you have not seen earlier.

    Once you start crossing 20-40M amount, it's just a number. Life does not get better with more money. Leaving too large an amount to kids also makes it harder for kids. Leaving them enough that they can do whatever they want is one thing, but leaving too much that they don't have to do anything is problematic. I meant, leaving some Millions may help someone to take a profession without high pay as long as they enjoy it. Leaving Billions makes no sense to me.


    "If this happens I will swim across the Charles River! In winter!" -- OZGOD on NZ batting 6 sessions

  9. #9
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    Amazing this.

    What a generous guy, some would say he was crazy.




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