An Unconventional Billionaire Is Revolutionizing Philanthropy By Closing His $8 Billion Foundation
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Some people are into extreme sports, others extreme eating. You could call self-made billionaire Chuck Feeney an extreme philanthropist.
Feeney, the 83-year-old co-founder of the pioneering retail business Duty Free Shoppers (the company that sells the tax-free alcohol and perfume in airports), is practically unknown as a public figure. Though Forbes once ranked him the 23rd richest person alive, you wouldn’t realize it if you met him on the street: In his prime, he famously wore a $15 watch and flew economy. You certainly won’t find his name on any buildings. Yet his foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies, will soon become the largest ever foundation to purposefully give away all its money–seeded by almost Feeney’s entire fortune, which was worth about $4 billion when he donated it anonymously three decades ago–and then go about shutting its doors.
Big bucks philanthropy was once defined by benevolent barons like Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Ford, men who plastered their names on brick walls and established foundations with large endowments meant to carry on their legacy forever. In 1984, when Feeney gave away nearly all his wealth, he became an early, outsized example of a new breed of philanthropist, a forefather of a style of giving that is becoming more and more popular with today’s rich and ultra-rich.