Warren Buffett gives away his fortune.
The world's second richest man... will start giving away 85% of his wealth in July - most of it to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.(via Slashdot.)
Buffett has pledged to gradually give 85% of his Berkshire stock to five foundations. A dominant five-sixths of the shares will go to the world's largest philanthropic organization, the $30 billion Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, whose principals are close friends of Buffett's (a connection that began in 1991, when a mutual friend introduced Buffett and Bill Gates).
The Gateses credit Buffett, says Bill, with having "inspired" their thinking about giving money back to society. Their foundation's activities, internationally famous, are focused on world health -- fighting such diseases as malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis -- and on improving U.S. libraries and high schools.
Up to now, the two Gateses have been the only trustees of their foundation. But as his plan gets underway, Buffett will be joining them. Bill Gates says he and his wife are "thrilled" by that and by knowing that Buffett's money will allow the foundation to "both deepen and accelerate" its work. "The generosity and trust Warren has shown," Gates adds, "is incredible." Beginning in July and continuing every year, Buffett will give a set, annually declining number of Berkshire B shares - starting with 602,500 in 2006 and then decreasing by 5% per year - to the five foundations. The gifts to the Gates foundation will be made either by Buffett or through his estate as long as at least one of the pair -- Bill, now 50, or Melinda, 41 -- is active in it.
The other foundation gifts that Buffett is making will also occur annually and start in July. At Berkshire's current price, the combined 2006 total of these gifts will be $315 million. The contributions will go to foundations headed by Buffett's three children, Susan, Howard, and Peter, and to the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation.
This last foundation was for 40 years known simply as the Buffett Foundation and was recently renamed in honor of Buffett's late wife, Susie, who died in 2004, at 72, after a stroke. Her will bestows about $2.5 billion on the foundation, to which her husband's gifts will be added. The foundation has mainly focused on reproductive health, family planning, and pro-choice causes, and on preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.
Because the value of Buffett's gifts are tied to a future, unknowable price of Berkshire, there is no way to put a total dollar value on them. But the number of shares earmarked to be given have a huge value today: $37 billion.
That alone would be the largest philanthropic gift in history. And if Buffett is right in thinking that Berkshire's price will trend upward, the eventual amount given could far exceed that figure.
"He did not subscribe to his family's religion. Even at a young age he was too mathematical, too logical, to make the leap of faith. He adopted his father's ethical underpinnings, but not his belief in an unseen divinity."--from Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist, by Roger Lowenstein (Doubleday, 1995), page 13. (Via Celebrity Atheist List.)