Chuck Feeney: The Billionaire Who Wanted To Die Broke Has Given Away His Entire $8 Billion Fortune

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Chuck Feeney: The Billionaire Who Wanted To Die Broke Has Given Away His Entire $8 Billion Fortune

A US billionaire has just given away his $8 billion fortune as part of The Atlantic Philanthropies project. Chuck Feeney, in a zoom call with California Governor Jerry Brown, fellow-billionaire Bill Gates, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, signed off the project after 38 years of work in which he gave billions away to charity.

He and his wife are now left with $2 million.

Feeney made his fortune as founder of retailer' Duty Free Shoppers' which he established in 1960. Then, in 1984 signed up to The Atlantic Philanthropies, whereby he promised to give away most of his wealth to good causes. He was also one of the first to sign the Giving While Living Pledge which urges the ultra-wealthy to give at least 50% of their wealth away while still alive. Others who have signed the pledge include, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Warren Buffet.

Feeney told Forbes:

"We learned a lot. We would do some things differently, but I am very satisfied. I feel very good about completing this on my watch. My thanks to all who joined us on this journey. And to those wondering about Giving While Living: Try it, you'll like it… I see little reason to delay giving when so much good can be achieved through supporting worthwhile causes. Besides, it's a lot more fun to give while you live than give while you're dead."

The billionaire was famed for his frugality, never travelling on expensive tickets, or even owning a car. He and his wife live in a rented apartment and he only has one pair of shoes. Warren Buffet has described him as one of his inspirations as to how he wishes to live his life. Buffet said:

"Chuck was a cornerstone in terms of inspiration for the Giving Pledge. He's a model for us all. It's going to take me 12 years after my death to get done what he's doing within his lifetime."

What is known is that Feeney has given $1 billion to his former university Cornell, where he studied as a young man. While he had for decades kept his philanthropy hidden some of his activities were discovered in court documents in 1997 as they were required to be revealed for a legal case.

Feeney implored in one of his few public statements about the requirement for the very wealthy to do something positive with their riches, and that it truly was a moral duty to do so, not only for those living but for those in generations to come. He said:

"Wealth brings responsibility. People must define themselves, or feel a responsibility to use some of their assets to improve the lives of their fellow humans, or else create intractable problems for future generations."

While some may justifiably decry an economic system that allows private individuals to amass such fortunes in the first place, it must nevertheless be seen as a positive that many are attempting to put back into the society from which they have so greatly benefited.

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Thinking Humanity: Chuck Feeney: The Billionaire Who Wanted To Die Broke Has Given Away His Entire $8 Billion Fortune
Chuck Feeney: The Billionaire Who Wanted To Die Broke Has Given Away His Entire $8 Billion Fortune
A US billionaire has just given away his $8 billion fortune as part of The Atlantic Philanthropies project.
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