Philanthropist Wants to Be Rid of His Last $1.5 Billion
By JIM DWYER
Published: August 7, 2012
Across from a television set with the obsolete girth of a model bought 20 years ago, beneath the grandchildren’s crayon artwork taped to the wall, to the left of an abandoned hula hoop, Charles F. Feeney sits in an armchair and explains how he will get rid of his last $1.5 billion, give or take, by 2016.
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Brad Vest/The New York Times
Charles F. Feeney, 81, has already given away $6 billion through his foundations.
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Just as he did with his first $6 billion, it will all be awarded through Atlantic Philanthropies, the group of private foundations he created in 1982 and managed to run anonymously for its first 15 years, even though it was one of the largest sources of grants in the United States, Ireland, South Africa and Vietnam.
Why shut it down? Mr. Feeney, 81, a man with no romantic attachment to wealth or its trappings, said the world had enough urgent problems that required attention now, before they became even more expensive to solve.
“When you’ve got the money, you spend it,” Mr. Feeney said. “When you’ve spent it all, let someone else get going and spend theirs.”
When the last of its money has been spent and it closes its doors sometime around 2020, Atlantic Philanthropies will be by far the largest such organization to have voluntarily shut itself down, according to Steven Lawrence, director of research for the Foundation Center. (The much bigger Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation plans to shut down 50 years after its founders die.)
By its end, Atlantic will have invested about $7.5 billion in direct medical care, immigration reform, education, criminal justice advocacy and peace-building initiatives. It was an invisible hand at the end of armed conflicts in South Africa and in Northern Ireland, providing funds to buttress constitutional politics over paramilitary action. It has supported marriage-equality campaigns, death penalty opponents and contributed $25 million to push health care reform.
Last fall, Mr. Feeney gave his alma mater, Cornell University, $350 million to seal its bid to build a new campus for advanced engineering that New York City has commissioned for Roosevelt Island. The day the gift was announced, Stanford University dropped out of the competition. He has also given $270 million for a new medical campus in San Francisco. “If only I could remember who hooked me up with it,” Mr. Feeney said. “He said, ‘You’re out here a lot anyway, it won’t take much of your time.’ ” That was in 2004.
With grand philanthropy often comes public glory for wealthy donors, as buildings and institutes are dedicated to benefactors, their names embedded above doorways like graffiti tags chiseled in marble. No building anywhere bears Mr. Feeney’s name. Among tycoons, he has been a countercultural figure of rare force, clinging to his privacy far more fiercely than to his money.
He set up the philanthropies in Bermuda, in large part because that would allow him to escape United States disclosure requirements. That also meant he could not take tax deductions when he contributed his holdings.
Mr. Feeney, who grew up in a working-class family in Elizabeth, N.J., served as a radio operator in the United States Air Force and attended Cornell on the G.I. Bill. He sold liquor to sailors in ports, then formed a company that ran airport duty-free shops around the world. He secretly turned over the duty-free business to the philanthropies in 1984 and continued to invest.
In 1997, he disclosed his role in Atlantic when the business was being sold, but stayed out of public sight. In the last 10 years, he decided that enlarging his profile might inspire rich people to share their fortunes. One result was “The Billionaire Who Wasn’t,” a sparkling, unblinking biography by Conor O’Clery, a leading Irish journalist.
Another was that Warren Buffett called Mr. Feeney the “spiritual leader” of a campaign urging extremely wealthy people to donate their money.
He buys clothes off the rack — “I’m a shabby dresser,” he said — and until recently, flew coach as he traveled among four or five continents. “They decided as part of my 75th-birthday celebrations that I would be entitled to fly first class,” Mr. Feeney said, sounding a bit embarrassed. “I’ll be honest, I’m not good at flying anymore. To my credit, I can stretch out on two coach seats.”
When in New York, Mr. Feeney lives in a building on a side street in Midtown Manhattan, preferring to bob in the anonymous streams of a crowded sidewalk to being swaddled in the liveried privacy he could easily have bought on Park or Fifth Avenue.
He has given away essentially everything he has made, apart from decent, though not extravagant, provisions for his four daughters and one son. They all worked through college as waiters, maids and cashiers.
“I want the last check I write to bounce,” Mr. Feeney said.
http://www.businessandfinance.ie/index. … amp;a=3050
I love this guy-- especially his quote " I want the last check I write to bounce" Just can't stop laughing at that one. Actually, I don't have a foundation or a fortune, but I kinda feel the same way Thanks for posting this, Ralph. It inspires me to see a gazillionaire who isn't a greedy Wall Street Banker or a right wing nut job:-)
Not getting your point. Romney doesn't donate enough?
We don't know how much Romney donates or to whom other than tithing to the Mormon Church. We do know he spends a lot on multiple McMansions, Cadillacs and other motor vehicles, not to mention dressage horses.
"So it’s basically the same thing. Everyone picks on Ann’s hobby, but dressage saved her life. Yes, I cost $77,000 a year, but Ann said that riding me has helped combat the effects of her multiple sclerosis by providing “joy therapy.” I’m not just some pampered beast who costs $50,000 more than the nation’s per capita yearly income; I’m a joy therapist. So, if any of you are suffering from or a loved one is suffering from MS, buy a dressage horse. And, you’re welcome."
http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackst … lca-101541
Does tithing not count?
Its too bad Obama didn't start donating to charities until he hit the limelight, huh?
And is it bad to spend money on homes and cars? Isn't he supporting jobs that way?
I really don't understand your criticism here, as it would apply equally, or moreso, to the majority of other rich folk and politicians.
Yes, it would. But not to Warren Buffett or Chuck Feeney. A "Queen of Versaillers II" documentary could be made starring Ann Romney and Rafalca."
http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-es … avo-345982
Here's one for the Romneys to aspire to, overlooking the garbage dumps of Mumbai, the most expensive house in the world.
http://inhabitat.com/worlds-largest-and … completed/
[Of course tithing counts. It would be better, however, if Romney gave the money to the Quakers or Unitarians or Medcins San Frontiers instead of the Mormon Church which has a rather dubious history.]
Selling drugs also supports jobs in the ghettos and the mountains of Colombia and Afghanistan.
Ugh, there's no point with you Ralph. You will continue to knowingly quote Romney out of context to make him look bad. You will continue to do these ridiculous things like equating the purchase of a home with selling drugs...
I've posted information on subjects, directly to you in the past, from GM's taxes, to Bain's record, and you have consistently blown off primary source facts for the liberal crap you pick up from the media.
And seriously, you think donations to the LDS church are worse than any other? They don't have a paid clergy, so none of the donations go to that. They have an amazing humanitarian record...
Like I said, no point.
"You will continue to knowingly quote Romney out of context to make him look bad." True and you will continue to denigrate Obama. It's an election year.
I'm willing to accept that the Mormon Church does good works so far as I know. It has a rather sketchy past, however wrt to African-Americans and poligamy. Some offshoots mormons still practice poligamy.
I talk bad about things Obama actually does and says. I don't purposefully take his quotes out of context to make him look bad.
Did you know that Obama said "I....think....small-businesses...are...the problem"? You can skew anything someone says, doesn't mean it's right.
The LDS church doesn't practice polygamy. Anyone who does isn't LDS, so they have no bearing on Romney's faith.
Polygamy is an entirely different issue, but are you against polygamy? Are you for gay rights?
Again, you're just trying to make something look bad for no reason other than you don't like Mitt Romney. The Catholic Church is bad too, right? I mean, they used to kill and torture people...
I didn't say that LDS condones or still practices polygamy. However, sects that sprang from LDS still practice polygamy here in the U.S.
I'm not a believer in polygamy. I do support gay equality to which they are entitled under the Constitution.
"The Catholic Church is bad too, right? I mean, they used to kill and torture people.." More recently the hierarchy from Bishops all the way to the Vatican covered up for pediphile priests. and the church's treatment of nuns and women leaves a lot to be desired and might be considered un-Christian.
Whatever the context, Romney has hoof in mouth disease to the point at which his ability to connect with ordinary folks is minimal and perhaps he's not as intelligent as he purports to be. Like W., I wonder how he got into Harvard Business School, let alone Harvard Law School. His main characteristic is an overblown sense of entitlement based on the circumstances of his birth. I'f he'd been born black in a Detroit ghetto he'd probably be in jail for selling dope.
The socialist's goal is equal misery for all, except for the necessary elitists who keep it that way.
Would you mind quoting the source of this intellectual gem, Will? And exactly who would the "necessary elitists" be? Oh yes, and by what system of oversight would they maintain the distribution of the "equal misery" of which you so confidently speak?
People when voting should remember your sentence as an adage "Mitt Romney is not Charles Feeney!". It says it all! Everything else is superfluous!
"We don't know how much Romney donates or to whom other than tithing to the Mormon Church."
Yes we do. It's on the income tax records he released. He donates a lot of money to charity
He does? Can you be more specific? How much and to what charities? I must have missed that information.
Ralph, I can't believe you overlooked this. Romney also donated to:
Center for the Treatment of Pediatric MS
Boys and Girls Club of Boston
Belmont High School
City Year (tutoring for at-risk youth)
Deseret International (helps cripples, the blind, and disfigured people in underdeveloped countries)
Harvard Business School
Friends of Belmont Council (helps senior citizens)
Camp High Hope (for special-needs children)
Right to Play (sports for kids in 3rd world countries)
US Equestrian Team Foundation
George Bush Library
It's true that much of Romney's charitable giving goes to the Mormon Church, but they do a lot of good work with that money.
According to the WaPo FactChecker, Obama wasn't generous until he became a noted politician. Check out these figures on Obama's charitable donations:
2005 - 4.6%
2004 - 1.2%
2003 - 1.4%
2002 - 0.4%
So, can I assume that Obama didn't care about the needy until he wanted to run for POTUS?
Mitt Romney has shown his disinterest in philanthropic pursuits by hiding undisclosed assets in offshore accounts. This action, along with others publicly known to have been taken by his accounting staff to reduce his tax liabilities, are evidence that he has a deep reluctance to contribute to the financial health even of the very country he aspires to lead.
I think actions like these place Mr. Romney in a spiritual place quite removed from that of Charles Feeney.
(CNN) -- By announcing that he will release no further tax returns beyond his 2010 and 2011 returns, Mitt Romney appears to have exempted himself from the proud bipartisan tradition of presidential nominees displaying genuine financial candor with the electorate . . .
Maybe Mitt's humility is preventing him from showing the world just how benevolent he really is?
Wiz, when are you going to stop agreeing with me? You should know by now that two people agreeing on anything is a disgrace in HubPages forums!
Say, Wizard, do you lie awake at night wondering if Mitt gave that shoeshine man a tip? And if so, was it cash or inside information on a stock trade?
Rumor has it that Mitt gave him a discount on the sale of The Book Of Moron's Bible.
Just look at these forums. We have one person who openly admits he will misquote Romney to make him look bad, and several who do it anyway without admitting to it. We have people who claim that Romney spending millions into taxes, and a higher percentage than 98% of Americans, isn't paying his fair share. People saying his donations to the LDS church don't count as charity, but instead just show that he will try to merge church and state.
In the media, we have people saying he might be a felon, and he is responsible for the death of a woman who wouldn't have been covered under Joe Soptic's insurance anyway.
He doesn't want to release them because it's just more ammo. The media and Obama's campaign/backers will just throw out accusation after accusation, by the time he puts out one fire there will be 5 more. He can't play that game, no politician can.
People believe what they see on the news, almost in a fanatical manner.
So you've become a prophet now, Jaxson? Predicting what the "media" will do based on just the supposition that the tax returns will be released? How about considering the possibility that the returns contain undeniable evidence that Romney is a tax evader? Would such evidence be nothing more than "accusations" then?
Yes, I can project what the media, Obama's team, and pro-Obama PACs will do, based on what they have already done.
If Romney was a tax evader, the IRS would be all over that already. Most reporters or citizens wouldn't be able to tell from looking at them anyway.
Yes, if there was something bad in them, they would be valid concerns... but if there was something bad in them, don't you think the IRS would have noticed when they audited him?
I was kidding about the prophet thing. You are a reasonable debater and I admire you for the depth of your knowledge. I don't always agree with your conclusions, but then there would be no discussion if we all agreed, right?
About Romney, I am very curious as to why he's still refusing to release his returns. The simple act of refusing causes many people to raise an eyebrow.
About the IRS, they have no jurisdiction if the funds reside in a country that doesn't engage in reciprocity. Switzerland and the Canary Islands are known for refusing auditors access to their clients' information. Which raises the question of why Romney would have seen a need to place his assets in such places.
I don't mind disagreeing. I just mind when people start ad hominem attacks in the discussion.
One reason I've heard for offshore trusts is that it allowed foreign investors to invest without becoming subjected to double-taxation from the US and their native country. I don't pretend to know all the possible reasons though. Very, very, very, very, very few people have a solid understanding of international tax laws. The code is simply much too large, much to complicated, and changes much too often.
I think the biggest reason is probably due to losses Romney sustained in 08-09. He might not have paid any taxes those years, and the media and Obama would be all over that.
What makes it worse is that gains and losses usually aren't realized the same year. So say Romney lost a bunch of money in 08, but didn't sell those stocks until 09. He could end up paying no taxes in 09 even though he made a lot of money, because the losses from 08 weren't included in the 08 taxes.
Your observation is without doubt a possibility. My agreement, though, stops there.
I don't think the issue re Mr. Romney is the details of his tax status per se. I think the issue is one of the spirit the man is revealing to his constituency. George Romney made a wide open declaration of his finances when he ran for office, going far beyond what was required of him by law or tradition. His son, on the other hand, is very guarded and distrustful, refusing to share with the public any of his life that would allow them to take a true measure of who he is.
The spirit of Mitt Romney as revealed through his mystifying actions is at best unsettling.
"Would you mind quoting the source of this intellectual gem, Will?"
Call it my opinion. They are still allowed aren't they?
I would stand guard on your right to express your opinions until I fall over from fatigue. That your opinions differ from mine would detract nothing from my willingness to do so.
I do, however, like to see an opinion based on something more than defending the beliefs that were taught to the opinion's owner. Ralph Deeds formed his beliefs through study of thoughts recorded by history's noted philosophers. Ralph Deeds walked the hallways of the institutions where the laws of your country are formed. When Ralph makes a statement, I listen with respect.
But you are not Ralph Deeds. I have yet to see evidence that you have studied much beyond the yarns of your immediate world. I have yet to see evidence that you have walked the hallways of any institution beyond your local high school. When you make a statement, I question the reliability of the source from which you drew the information to form what you admit to be just an opinion.
See the difference?
Don't be hasty or rush to judgement, Niteriter—in Will's defense, he may have read or studied books that you and Ralph have ignored or overlooked . . .
I know you are a missionary at heart, Wizard. You know, coming to the defense of the poor, the downtrodden, and the misinformed and all! Good work on that count. Now, where did you hide all your AdSense earnings?
"I do, however, like to see an opinion based on something more than defending the beliefs that were taught to the opinion's owner."
I see. You have a divining rod that looks into the minds of others, and you can tell how they formed their opinions. Funny how liberals always see themselves as enlightened, and their opponents as uneducated and thoughtless. Here's one example of how that worked out:
The rest of your remarks are typical liberal snark and derision, so I will leave you to your delusions.
Wiz, if you don't stop making me laugh I just might slip up and start believing like Will.
Well if truth be told, Will Starr and I are old adversaries. He has some difficulty laughing at his own biases and takes the game much too seriously, imo.
Other than being an angry-white-guy -Milton Friedman-true-believer, I'm sure he's a good person and means well.
LOL! Banter in these forums is a fine art, much like fencing. I am comfortable in the belief we are all suited and equipped with the agreed-upon foil, then some guy pulls out a sabre! And he gets all upset because I won't stand still for him to slash my shins! Maybe someday everyone will settle down and just enjoy the sport.
In the meantime, keep spreading the laughter!
Will, you sound as though you are a little perturbed! How very upsetting! Your reaction is so unusual from others I have met who believe their beliefs are equal to the acquired knowledge of someone who has studied recognized literature.
Let's not forget we are talking about Ralph Deeds here. You would like us to believe that your opinions are equal to those of Ralph Deeds. May we see something from you a little classier than a YouTube link, please? You know, to support your belief that your statements carry the same credibility as those of Ralph Deeds.
You guys are being tough on Will. Why isn't he allowed an opinion? Why is Ralph's opinion more valuable? Sounds Orwellian to me. I guess you think all conservatives are dumb and uneducated, huh?
Of course not—but conservatives aren't all tolerant and open-minded either—and can't opinions be challenged when their tone wallows in intolerant labels and narrow-minded dogma?
I'm laughing...like all liberals are tolerant and open-minded?? Face it Wiz, there are plenty of bad apples on both ends of the political spectrum!
Do you think "socialist" is an intolerant label? That's not nearly as intolerant as calling Romney a "lying sack of $h!t," is it?
Habee, I would agree; there are indeed intolerant and narrow-minded liberals, but some apples have way too many worms to ignore or tolerate—especially when they refuse to be civil or polite . . or hold a grudge for more than eight generations.
Nor do I think "socialist" is an "intolerant label" especially if it's accurate—but not when it's used as a biased cudgel to openly deride a thoughtful and rational argument.
And I would never stoop to such unimaginative language as" calling Romney a "lying sack of $h!t,"
BUT . . .
Sweet dreams dear lady and keep that lovely smile!
Personally, I was just needling Will - to plumb his depth, so to speak. Then, as I was about to reach my peak performance, Will took his toys and went home. Dang! I hate it when that happens!
I hate it when that happens, too! Now I need to take my toys and go to bed. It's after midnight here.
You guys keep it civil! lol
I'd never needle you, Habee. Heck no, I'm afraid of you! I hope you have a good nap. Toodles.
All this talk about being charitable is a kind of distraction when one considers how uncharitable conservatives can be when it comes to denying Americans healthcare and the insurance to cover it.
18,000 deaths blamed on lack of insurance
http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/hea … deaths.htm
New study finds 45,000 deaths annually linked to lack of health coverage
Uninsured, working-age Americans have 40 percent higher death risk than privately insured counterparts
http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2 … -coverage/
Four researchers who culled through 50 years of research literature about the psychology of conservatism report that at the core of political conservatism is the resistance to change and a tolerance for inequality, and that some of the common psychological factors linked to political conservatism include:
Fear and aggression
Dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity
Need for cognitive closure
http://berkeley.edu/news/media/releases … tics.shtml
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