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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 June 2018

Six billionaires who have given away half their fortune with The Giving Pledge

Gems founder Sunny Varkey and the creator of Uber are among those who will give half their fortune to charity

Sunny Varkey, 49, Founder and Chairman of GEMS Education at his office in Dubai. Philip Cheung / Abu Dhabi Media Company
Sunny Varkey, 49, Founder and Chairman of GEMS Education at his office in Dubai. Philip Cheung / Abu Dhabi Media Company

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 US$92 billion, depending on the Microsoft stock price.

Here are six people who have made the pledge:

Garrett Camp, co-founder and chairman of Uber Technologies Inc., speaking during the Slush Tokyo startup event in Tokyo, Japan. Kiyoshi Ota / Bloomberg
Garrett Camp, co-founder and chairman of Uber Technologies Inc., speaking during the Slush Tokyo startup event in Tokyo, Japan. Kiyoshi Ota / Bloomberg

Garrett Camp, 39

Canadian businessman and investor Camp founded the web discovery service StumbleUpon and its successor Mix, but he is best known for Uber, the ride hailing network he co-created in 2009 with $250,000 of his own money.

With Uber now operating in an estimated 633 cities worldwide, Camp is said to be worth $5.3 billion.

His pledge came after a visit to Kenya, which he describes as “eye-opening. He wrote: “Philanthropy isn’t just about donating money, but also sharing your advice or spending time solving important problems.”

Richard Lundquist (left), Melanie Lundquis (centre) and Brian Sweeney at El Segundo Museum of Art in California. (Stefanie Keenan / WireImage
Richard Lundquist (left), Melanie Lundquis (centre) and Brian Sweeney at El Segundo Museum of Art in California. (Stefanie Keenan / WireImage

Richard and Melanie Lundquist, both 65

For the past ten years, the Lundquists have given $5 million annually to the schools of Los Angeles. It is just part of the estimated $50 million the couple donate each year to causes that include medical research and healthcare.

The couple are the owners of the Continental Development Corporation, a real estate company whose assets include shopping malls and the Intercontinental Hotel in San Francisco.

In their pledge letter they say: “For us, philanthropy is the meaning of life and also what gives our lives true meaning. Our philanthropic journey has been our richest experience. “

Dong Fanjun, 45

The Chinese founder of Dongfang Huiquan Financial Holdings Group is a rags to riches story.

He tells of growing up in an impoverished village in the Yimeng Mountains of Shandong Province, where at least nine members of his family were killed in warfare.At the age of 27, he was badly injured in a serious car accident.

“Suffering did not shake my determination to change fate, but strengthened my confidence in helping disadvantaged groups,” he says.

His Dongfangjun Charity Foundation has: “Developed and implemented a variety of philanthropic projects in caring for veterans, disaster relief, poverty alleviation, reviving traditional culture, supporting education, and building a harmonious society, from which I gain happiness and power to go forward.”

Easygroup founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou hosts a press conference in London. Bruno Vincent / Getty Images
Easygroup founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou hosts a press conference in London. Bruno Vincent / Getty Images

Sir Stelios Haji-Ionnou, 51

Cypriot born, Sir Selios is best known for founding the low-cost airline easy-Jet in 1995 at the age of 27 and is now estimated to be worth around $1.58 billion. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 2006 and now lives in Monaco.

His charitable work includes the Stelios Philanthropic Foundation, which offers university scholarships and provides relief work in Greece and Cyprus.

He has also offered rewards to promote peace between Muslim and Christian Cypriots on the divided island.

He says: “I think all wealthy people have a debt to repay because it is thanks to their customers who bought their goods and/or services that they acquired their fortune.”

You Zhonghui

The first Chinese woman to sign the Giving Pledge, she is the founder of Shenzhen Seaskyland Technologies, an educational software company. She is little known outside China, and both her wealth and age are unrecorded.

In her pledge letter, she reveals her first donation was to a school in Guizou, a mountainous province in the south of the country.

Her causes include more educational philanthropy, with scholarships and help in building schools. She is also a keen supporter of the environment, supporting conservancy efforts in Guizou.

She writes: “We Chinese say, it is better to teach people how to fish than to give them a fish. That's why I'm so glad to see the achievements that been made after the donation of my educational evaluation programme.”

Sunny and Sherly Varkey

Long familiar for their work in the UAE, the founder of Gems education was born in Kerala but moved to Dubai as a child in 1959, where his parents both taught English to locals, including members of the Maktoum family.

With the success of GEMS, the couple set up the Varkey Foundation in 2010 with aim of helping 100 deprived children for every one enrolled in their schools.

In 2014, he announced the Global Teacher Prize, an annual $1 million award to the world’s most exceptional teacher. Now in his early 60s, he is estimated by Forbes to be worth around $2.6 billion.

Taking The Global Pledge he wrote: “I have been fortunate that I grew up in a family where charity was ingrained in us from a very early age. We were immigrants to a new country, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

"Even when my father earned a small amount, a large percentage was shared with the community we lived in, sometimes at the cost of our own comfort.”