Chuck Feeney winding up charitable operations
CHUCK FEENEY, the reclusive Irish-American billionaire who has given more than €1.25 billion to projects on both sides of the Border, is winding up his charitable operations.
Atlantic Philanthropies, which was founded by Mr Feeney in 1982, is to complete grant-making by the end of 2016 and cease operations in 2020, its board decided last week.
The decision is being relayed to grant recipients from today, and some will be told their support is being discontinued before the 2016 deadline. However, no major Irish projects are affected in this way.
Mr Feeney said in a statement yesterday the focus of his charitable giving would now be sharpened to maximise the benefit that could be achieved with his remaining resources; €1.83 billion remains to be disbursed, of which €750 million is committed to existing projects.
Atlantic has invested more than €5 billion in grants internationally since it was founded by Mr Feeney in 1982. The largest single recipient of his generosity in the Republic and Northern Ireland is the higher education sector, which has received almost €667 million in support.
Since 2004 Atlantic has focused on three Irish programmes – ageing; children and youth; and reconciliation and human rights.
Mr Feeney, who made his fortune from duty free shops in the Far East, has long espoused “giving while living”. He said he still believed in this philosophy. “I see little reason to delay giving when so much good can be achieved through supporting worthwhile causes today. Besides, it’s a lot more fun to give while you live than to give when you are dead.”
Despite the imminent withdrawal of the State’s biggest philanthropist during a period of economic turmoil, Mr Feeney expressed confidence about Ireland’s prospects.
“I particularly value the commitment and spirit of generosity among the many people I have come to know through Atlantic’s work across the island of Ireland. These are challenging times. I admire the resilience of the people on this island and remain optimistic for the future.”
Mr Feeney transferred his wealth to Atlantic in 1984 but for many years he donated money anonymously. He is renowned for a frugal lifestyle.