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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Meet the billionaires who plan to give their fortunes away

Led by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, a group of the world's richest promise they won't take it with them or give it to their children

Bill Gates pledged to give away half his fortune to good causes and co-founded The Giving Pledge, a project that encouraged more of the world's wealthiest people to follow suit. Ted S. Warren / AP
Bill Gates pledged to give away half his fortune to good causes and co-founded The Giving Pledge, a project that encouraged more of the world's wealthiest people to follow suit. Ted S. Warren / AP

It is an act of generosity difficult to measure without a calculator that adds up to at least a dozen zeros.

Fourteen of the world’s wealthiest people have just promised to give at least half their wealth to good causes.

They are part of The Giving Pledge , a project created by billionaire investor Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, who flits between being the richest and second richest man in the world with a fortune of around $92 billion, depending on the Microsoft stock price.

Several of the newcomers live in the UAE. They include Dr B R Shetty, originally from Kerala, who founded NMC Healthcare, and his wife Dr C R Shetty. In his pledge, Dr Shetty, worth an estimated $4.2 billion, writes: “It is a crime when you are able to help others and choose not to.”

The UAE list includes Badr Jafar, the chief executive of Crescent Enterprises and the founder of the Pearl Initiative, which promotes corporate transparency and accountability, and Razan Al Mubarak .

They join an elite group of billionaires that includes some familiar names – George Lucas of Star Wars, and Sir Richard Branson of Virgin – and those less well known to the public, like fund investor Mario Gabelli, and Aneel Bhusri, CEP of the business software firm Workday, who collectively are worth around $4 billion.

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Since its creation in 2010, 183 individuals from all over the world have now signed The Giving Pledge, in which they promise to give half their wealth to philanthropy or charity, either during their lifetime or in their will. It is an elite club for billionaires only.

It formalises a concept that began as the number of the world billionaires began to increase, a number which currently stands at 2,208 according to the Forbes’ Rich List and collectively worth $9 trillion ($9,000,000,000,000).

Bill Gates was an early enthusiast for giving it all away. In an interview with the UK Mail on Sunday seven years ago, he made it clear what the future held for his three children: “It will be a minuscule portion of my wealth. It will mean they have to find their own way.” (Some reports have said this will be around $10 million each, so perhaps only minuscule to Mr Gates).

Many years before he co-established The Giving Pledge, Warren Buffet was expressing similar sentiments in a 1986 interview with Fortune magazine.

''My kids are going to carve out their own place in this world,” he told the interviewer, adding back then that he felt the right amount to pass down to his two sons and daughter was: “a few hundred thousand dollars.”

It was: “Enough money so that they would feel they could do anything, but not so much that they could do nothing."

Like Buffet and Gates, many billionaires intend to give away considerably more than half their worth. But there is probably no more extreme example than Charles Feeney, the founder of the DFS duty free shopping empire. By 2017, Feeney was estimated to have given away around $9bn, but then stopped.

There was nothing left.