We often come across millionaires and billionaires who eventually go broke. They are usually self-made businessmen carried into oblivion by delusions of grandeur. However, none of them is like Charles ‘Chuck’ Feeney. He has gone broke on purpose! The generous former billionaire in America has earned himself the moniker “James Bond of Philanthropy” for his countless anonymous acts of charity.
In the process, he inspired dozens of other business tycoons to be more socially responsible. In fact, Chuck Feeney is the one who inspired his contemporaries Bill Gates and Warren Buffett to initiate the iconic ‘Giving Pledge’.
James Bond of Philanthropy
Chuck is the James Bond of Philanthropy simply because “Feeney gives freely”. He is notorious for going around the world, sometimes undercover, to give away almost all the $8 billion he has made over the years to human rights, health and education programmes.
The self-made entrepreneur made billions through the Duty Free Shoppers franchise he created with Robert Miller in the 60s. His ultimate goal is to “die broke”. He set aside $2 million of his vast $8 billion fortune in 2012 for his wife and his retirement days while promising to give away all the rest through his philanthropic organisation, Atlantic Philanthropies.
His magnanimous dream came true this September 14, when he closed Atlantic Philanthropies after donating everything to various charitable causes. He held the celebration on Zoom with his wife Helga, from a small San Francisco apartment where he resides. Bill Gates and former US politician Jerry Brown shared their congratulations via video messages.
His donations include $870 million for human rights causes, $76 million for campaigns supporting health programme Obamacare, a whopping $270 million grant for public healthcare in Vietnam and $350 million to Cornell University (where he studied) for raising a technology campus building.
Inspiration for the Giving Pledge
Chuck has popularised the “Giving While Living” ethos. He believes that the rich should donate their wealth to charity while they are alive rather than creating a legacy through a foundation after they have left this world. His ethos inspired Gates and Buffett to launch the Giving Pledge, where the world’s richest folk, including Azim Premji and Nandan Nilekani, have pledged to donate at least half their wealth.
This is what Bill Gates said about Chuck Feeney:
“Chuck created a path for other philanthropists to follow. I remember meeting him before starting the Giving Pledge. He told me we should encourage people not to give just 50% but as much as possible during their lifetime. No one is a better example of that than Chuck.”
Here’s to the James Bond of Philanthropy who has lent a Quantum of Solace to millions of needy and marginalised people.