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These billionaires will donate half their wealth!

Last updated on: August 6, 2010 20:36 IST

These billionaires will donate half their wealth!

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It all began with an innocuous dinner party in New York in May 2009. Fourteen months after the feast, 40 American billionaires have pledged to eat into their wealth and give half of it away in an unprecedented act of philanthropy.

The dinner -- brainchild of legendary investor Warren Buffett, organised by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda, and hosted by David Rockefeller Sr at Rockefeller University -- on saw a very exclusive group of America's richest and most famous people being asked what they thought of philanthropy.

Most of these men and women had already been involved in altruistic pursuit, but what Buffett and Gates got them to agree to was beyond what anyone could have imagined: signing a pledge to donate half of their collective $230 billion (that's Rs 1,058,000 crore!) for philanthropic causes.

The United States has more than 400 billionaires, according to the Forbes magazine. So who are the 40 billionaires who have pledged to give away half their wealth?

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Image: 40 American billionaires will give away 50 per cent of their wealth for good causes.
Photographs: Reuters
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Bill and Melinda Gates

The co-founder of the world's largest software company Microsoft and co-chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is worth $53.5 billion.

He and his wife, Melinda Gates, co-chair and trustee, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, have for long been working on various philanthropic causes and spent billions of dollars all around the world, including in India.

Melinda Gates was last year ranked the second most creative person in the business, ahead of her husband, by FastCompany.

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Image: Microsoft chairman Bill Gates and wife Melinda watch the swimming finals during the Beijing Olympic Games.
Photographs: Eric Gaillard/Reuters
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Warren Buffett

The chairman of Berkshire Hathaway is worth $47 billion today. He had already pledged to give 99 per cent of his wealth away!

In a letter titled 'My Philanthropic Pledge', Buffett has recently written: "Now, Bill and Melinda Gates and I are asking hundreds of rich Americans to pledge at least 50 per cent of their wealth to charity."

The letter was posted on the website of 'The Giving Pledge' initiative, being led by the three of them.

Well known for his wise investment decisions, the 79-year-old Buffett is the chairman of conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway that has invested in diverse companies.

"More than 99 per cent of my wealth will go to philanthropy during my lifetime or at death. Measured by dollars, this commitment is large. In a comparative sense, though, many individuals give more to others every day," the billionaire investor said.

In 2006, Buffett had pledged to give all the stocks he owns in Berkshire Hathaway to philanthropic foundations. Buffett said he has already distributed about 20 per cent of his Berkshire shares and would continue to 'annually distribute about 4 per cent the shares I retain.

"At the latest, the proceeds from all of my Berkshire shares will be expended for philanthropic purposes by 10 years after my estate is settled. Nothing will go to endowments; I want the money spent on current needs," the letter noted.

Buffett said the pledge to donate wealth would not affect his and his children's lives. "They (children) have already received significant sums for their personal use and will receive more in the future. . . I will continue to live in a manner that gives me everything that I could possibly want in life," he wrote in the letter.

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Image: Warren Buffett, chairman, Berkshire Hathaway.
Photographs: Reuters
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David Rockefeller Sr.

David Rockefeller Sr is worth $2.2 billion. He is the grandson of John D. Rockefeller, the legendary oil baron who was the world's richest man for a long, long time.

The dinner that started off this incredible pledge was hosted by David Rockefeller Sr at the President's House at Rockefeller University in New York on May 5, 2009.

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Image: (L-R) George Soros, David Rockefeller Sr, William Gates Sr., Ted Turner, (front row L-R) Irene Diamond, Brooke Astor, and Leonore Annenberg.
Photographs: Mike Segar/Reuters
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Barron Nicholas Hilton

With an estimated wealth of $2.5 billion, Barron Hilton, who is the son of legendary hotelier Conrad Hilton and the grandfather of socialite Paris Hilton, is one of the richest Americans.

He too has pledged to give half his wealth away for good causes.

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Image: Paris Hilton (C), her mother Kathy (L) and her brother Barron Nicholas Hilton.
Photographs: Yves Herman/Reuters
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Ted Turner

The American media magnate is the founder of CNN, the first 24-hour cable news channel.

Well known as a philanthropist, he has been involved in many an altruistic cause in collaboration with the United Nations Foundation.

His net worth is estimated at $2 billion. He has already given away more than $1.5 billion for charity earlier.

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Image: Turner Enterprises chairman Ted Turner.
Photographs: Phil McCarten/Reuters
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Eli Broad

Although philanthropist and art collector Eli Broad's fortune suffered because of AIG's collapse couple of years ago, his wealth ($5.4 billion) rivals the economy of many a small nation.

Broad is well known for his philanthropy and extensive art collection.

He is also a founder of the financial giant SunAmerica, now a subsidiary of the American International Group. He is also a real estate magnate.

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Image: Philanthropist Eli Broad.
Photographs: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters
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George Lucas

Famed Hollywood director George Lucas, with a net worth of $3 billion, is worth as much as the GDP of Guyana.

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Image: Hollywood director and creator of Star Wars and Indian Jones films George Lucas.
Photographs: Reuters
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Patrick Soon-Shiong and Michele Chan

Patrick Soon-Shiong was born in South Africa to Chinese parents. He studied to become a doctor and later migrated to the Untied States. 

His wealth is estimated at $5 billion.

Two years ago, Soon-Shiong and his wife Michele Chan who owned the majority stake in American Pharmaceutical Partners sold their stake to Fresenius SE for $3.7 billion.

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Image: Patrick Soon-Shiong with wife Michele Chan.

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Lawrence 'Larry' Ellison

Born to an unwed Jewish woman, Larry Ellison, co-founder and CEO of Oracle Corporation, was adopted by a middle class family in Chicago.

Ellison left the University of Illinois at the end of his second year, after his mother died. He later studied computer designing and moved to California. There, he did several odd jobs for eight years. As a programmer at Ampex, he participated in building the first IBM-compatible mainframe system.

In 1977, Ellison and his Ampex colleagues, Robert Miner and Ed Oates, founded Software Development Labs, with $1400. The company was later renamed Oracle Corporation.

Oracle is the world's leading supplier of software for information management, and the world's second largest software company. The 65-year-old Ellison often hits the headlines for his extravagant and flamboyant lifestyle.

His net worth is estimated at $28 billion.

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Image: Oracle chairman Lawrence Ellison.
Photographs: Reuters
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Michael Bloomberg

The Forbes magazine last year said that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg - actually runs "a small chunk of a state in an official capacity."

"While he is busy serving as the chief executive of New York City and grappling with its sluggish economy, his own personal balance sheet ($17.5 billion) -- amassed through financial information services and media company Bloomberg LP -- equals the value of all the goods and services produced in South Africa's Republic of Zambia's."

Bloomberg is the eighth richest person in America.

Media magnate Gerry Lenfest has given away more than half of his estimated $1.2 billion already.

John Morgridge, the former Cisco Systems chairman, is worth $1.6 billion.

American hedge fund manager Laura and John Arnold are worth $4 billion.

Founder of Huntsman Corporation businessman Jon Huntsman and his wife Karen are worth $1 billion.

George Kaiser, worth $10 billion, will donate half his wealth. He is the chairman of BOK Financial Corporation.

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Image: Billionaire and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Photographs: Reuters
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Joan and Irwin Jacobs

Qualcomm co-founder and former chairman and CEO, Irwin Mark Jacobs, is estimated to be worth $1.2 billion. Over the last decade he drew a salary of $436.8 million.

He and his wife Joan are well known for their philanthropy.

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Image: Qualcomm co-founder and former chairman Irwin Mark Jacobs.
Photographs: Reuters
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Sanford and Joan Weill

Known for the philanthropic causes that he and his wife Joan are associated with Sanford 'Sandy' Weill is an American banker.

He was the former CEO and chairman of financial giant Citigroup Inc.

Worth an estimated $1.5 billion, the couple has donated over $250 million to Cornell's medical school.

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Image: Citigroup co-chairman Sanford Weill (2nd left) and his wife Joan (2nd from right).
Photographs: Reuters
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John Doerr

John Doerr, an ace venture capitalist at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, in California is worth $1.7 billion.

He is the 52nd richest person in the world.

He made his fortune by making the right investment call on companies such as Google, Amazon, Netscape and Sun Microsystems.

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Image: Venture capitalist John Doerr.
Photographs: Dino Vournas/Reuters
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Paul Gardner Allen

Paul Gardner Allen co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates. His wealth is estimated at $13.5.

Born in Seattle, Paul Allen befriended Bill Gates while in school. Both shared an enthusiasm for computers, and would regularly sneak into University of Washington labs to work on projects.

They were eventually caught, but managed an agreement with administrators by providing free computer help to students who needed it.

Allen attended Washington State University, dropping out two years later to write software. He also convinced Gates to drop out of Harvard, to found the company that would make them famous.

Two years ago, Allen was back in the news for funding the SpaceShipOne sub-orbital commercial spacecraft.

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Image: Paul Allen at news conference after SpaceShipOne lands successfully at Mojave airport.
Photographs: Fred Prouser/Reuters
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Barry Diller

Barry Diller was recently named the second best-paid executive in the United States during the past decade.

Diller received roughly $1.14 billion from IAC/InterActive and Expedia.com, the online travel site IAC spun off in 2005, where he remains chairman.

Elaine and Kenneth Langone are worth $1 billion. Ken Langone is a venture capitalist and a major investor in The Home Depot.

Lorry Lokey, the founder of  Business Wire is worth $1 billion.

Alfred Mann made $1.4 billion in medical equipment. He is the chairman of the Mannkind Corporation.

Bernard Marcus, cofounder of Home Depot, is worth $1.5 billion.

Domino's Pizza founder Thomas Monaghan is worth close to a $1 billion.

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Image: Barry Diller, chairman of USA Networks Inc, and wife Diane von Furstenberg.
Photographs: Reuters
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Thomas Boone Pickens, Jr.

Thomas Boone Pickens, Jr, is an American financier, astute takeover artist, and chairman of BP Capital Management. He

His current wealth is estimated at $close to $1.5 billion.

Bernard and Barbro Osher, worth $800 million, founded World Savings which later merged with Wachovia Corp.

Blackstone Group co-founder Peter Peterson  is worth $2 billion.

Hedge fund genius  Julian Robertson Jr is worth $2.2 billion.

Herb and Marion Sandler were the co-CEOs of Golden West Financial Corporation and World Savings Bank which was sold to Wachovia. They are worth $1.2 billion after already donated $1.3 away to their Sandler Foundation.

Roger Sant co-founded energy major AES. He and his wife Vicki are worth about $1 billion.

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Image: Financier T. Boone Pickens.
Photographs: Joshua Roberts/Reuters
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Ronald Perelman

Ronald Perelman is the CEO of cosmetics giant Revlon and his net worth is estimated at $11 billion.

The astute American investor is said to have made his billions by buying down-and-out companies, turning them around and selling them for a huge profit.

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Image: Actress Ellen Barkin and Revlon Cosmetics CEO Ronald O. Perelman.
Photographs: Reuters
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Pierre Omidyar

Pierre Omidyar, founder of the world's biggest auction marketplace eBay, could theoretically control Somalia's market with his $5.5-billion fortune.

Walter Scott Jr made his $1.9 billion in construction and telecoms.

Jim and Marilyn Simons, of Renaissance Technologies, are worth $8.5 billion.

Tom Steyer and Kat Taylor, worth $1.2 billion, made their fortune having co-founded OneCalifornia Bank.

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Image: eBay founder and chairman Pierre Omidyar.
Photographs: Tim Shaffer/Reuters
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Jeffrey Skoll

Jeffrey Skoll is a movie producer and the first president of eBay. His net worth is estimated at $2.4 billion.

He was born in Canada, but after studyng engineering he moved to the United States. He now owns a movie production company, Participant Media.

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Image: Former eBay president and film producer Jeff Skoll.
Photographs: Reuters
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David Rubenstein

David Rubenstein is the co-founder and managing director of private equity giant The Carlyle Group.

His wealth is estimated at $2.5 billion.

Jim Stowers, worth over $2 billion, founded the American Century fund. He and his wife, Virginia, have donated $1.9 billion to the Stowers Institute for Medical Research.

Widow of late billionaire investor Leon Levy, Shelby White too has pledged to donate half her wealth for good causes. Levy was the founder of mutual fund giant Oppenheimer & Co. Inc.


Image: David Rubenstein, co-founder of The Carlyle Group.
Photographs: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
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