Another frugal billionaire philanthropist
by Caleb Reading
Via the LA Times:
Very long article, I’ll post a few excerpts:
Most foundations, set up after the donor’s death, dribble out barely more than 5% of their assets each year, the legal minimum.
But Feeney, raised in a blue-collar Irish Catholic family in New Jersey, quietly transferred the bulk of his fortune to his foundation when he was 53. Then, eight years ago, he instructed his board to pay out every last dollar by 2016.
So far: $4 billion down, $4 billion to go. Atlantic Philanthropies is spreading its wealth at the rate of more than $400 million a year, more than any U.S.-based family foundation apart from Bill & Melinda Gates and Ford.
As Feeney sees it, there is too much misery in the world to justify delay. “I’m not going to die until I can spend it,” he vows with a merry chuckle.
In the tiny world of stratospheric wealth, Feeney is a man of yin and yang: extravagant charity coupled with personal penny-pinching. “It’s the intelligent thing to be frugal,” says the erstwhile billionaire, who jokingly refers to himself as “the shabby philanthropist.”
Feeney’s practical reason for not plastering his moniker on buildings is to attract matching donors who would want naming rights — as was the case at Stanford with high-tech tycoon Jim Clark and at a UC San Francisco cancer facility with venture capitalist Arthur Rock.
Does Feeney have no ego, then? “It doesn’t matter who put the building up,” he says. “The important thing is that it happens.”
Feeney suggests with a cryptic smile, “There’s a thin line between sanity and the other side. Some people might even say the idea of giving money away is crazy.”
For those folks, Feeney has a Gaelic proverb: “There are no pockets in a shroud.”