Warren Buffett, extremely successful investor and one of the world’s richest men, and Bill and Melinda Gates, former head of Microsoft and his wife, held a dinner in New York City with some of America’s super, super-rich.
They sat around a conference table and took turns discussing what philanthropy meant to them. Over the next year, they held two more dinners – one in New York and one in San Francisco. Hoping to spread to places other than the U.S. they held another dinner in London and Bill Gates traveled to India and China on his own. At these dinners and discussions the billionaires encouraged each other to sit down, work out how much one’s children needed and then decide what to do with the rest.
In June, the campaign was officially unveiled. America’s billionaires were invited to take a “giving pledge” by writing a public letter – available on the campaign’s website (http://givingpledge.org/) – promising to give away at least a half of their wealth. Forty billionaires – worth a combined $230 billion – signed a “giving pledge” to donate at least 50 percent of their wealth to good causes. Buffett himself pledged to give away 99 percent of his estimated $47 billion fortune, much of it to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Buffett contacted 70 of America’s richest individuals. Two people have changed their wills as a result of his phone calls but he also received some Noes. Fortune magazine estimates that if the people on the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans all made the pledge, an additional $600 billion could flow to non-profit groups – twice the amount Americans gave last year. Gates believes that only 15 percent of wealthy Americans currently give away large amounts of money.
Larry Elison, co-founder of the technology company Oracle and estimated to be America’s third-richest man after Buffett and Gates, also pledged to give away 95 percent of his fortune.
I am going to list some of the names of the billionaires that I know of that made the pledge because I think it is important that they be recognized:
- David Rockefeller – patriarch of the famous dynasty
- Michael Bloomberg – the New York mayor
- Charles Feeney – Duty Free Shoppers owner
- Ted Turner – CNN Founder
- Eli and Edythe Broad – Los Angeles philanthropic couple
- John and Tashia Morgridge – former boss of technology giant Cisco Systems and his wife
- George Lucas – of Star Wars fame
- T Boone Pickens – Texas oil man
- Barry Diller (broadcasting mogul) and his wife Diane von Furstenberg (fashion designer)
- Barron Hilton – hotel heir
- Ronald Perelman – investor
The most up-to-date and complete list can be found at the campaign website (http://givingpledge.org/#enter)