Feeney pledges his vast fortune to philanthropy


IRISH-AMERICAN businessman Chuck Feeney has followed the lead of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet and pledged the majority of his fortune to philanthropy.

Mr Feeney is the latest billionaire to join the Giving Pledge, a charitable project launched by Mr Gates and Mr Buffett last year. Members of the project publicly commit to give the majority of their wealth to charitable causes, within their lifetimes or after their deaths.

Mr Feeney had initially decided not to participate in the Giving Pledge, as he transferred almost all his personal wealth and assets to The Atlantic Foundation more than 25 years ago. The foundation was a precursor of his current charitable organisation, The Atlantic Philanthropies, which has given more than $1 billion to the island of Ireland. However he has now decided to lend his support to the movement.

“Though I cannot pledge that which I already have given – The Atlantic Philanthropies have made over $5.5 billion in grants since inception – I want now to publicly add my enthusiastic support for this effort and celebrate this great accomplishment,” he said in a letter published on www.givingpledge.org.

Mr Buffett welcomed the newest member of the cause, describing Mr Feeney as a true innovator. “As someone who shares Chuck’s belief that early giving is important, I admire his philosophy of giving while living and appreciate the enthusiasm that he brings to his philanthropic work,” he said.

An Irish-American born in New Jersey during the Great Depression, Feeney became a billionaire after co-founding the Duty Free Shoppers Group in 1960. His foundation has donated vast sums through its philanthropic programmes around the world.

He has committed to spending his foundation’s entire endowment and closing its doors by 2020.

“I cannot think of a more personally rewarding and appropriate use of wealth than to give while one is living – to personally devote oneself to meaningful efforts to improve the human condition,” he said.

The Giving Pledge is a moral commitment to give to charity, rather than a legal obligation. It does not involve pooling money or supporting a particular set of causes. The Giving Pledge’s members include Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, film director George Lucas and Oracle founder Larry Ellison.