Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) CEO Jeff Bezos’ recent announcement of a $2 billion fund to tackle homelessness and provide primary education for low-income children is just the latest example of billionaire CEOs distributing their fortune through philanthropy.
Andrew Carnegie is, perhaps, the earliest public example of this practice. In 1889, he wrote “Gospel of Wealth” – an essay that stressed the importance of giving - in the North American Review. Over the years, numerous billionaires and CEOs have followed a similar philosophy.
Here are three CEOs, who have matched or bested Bezos in charitable giving.
Bill Gates is arguably the most well-known philanthropist in the world. The Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) co-founder merged two previous charities started by him into the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000 and has devoted most of his time and attention to it after transitioning away from the CEO role in 2006. Gates donated $1 billion of his personal fortune to the foundation. At the end of 2017, the foundation had an endowment of $50.7 billion. “The foundation works to reduce inequities around the world,” its website states. Over the years, the foundation has donated or worked on a diverse set of causes, from health and education initiatives in developing countries to research into new forms and types of energy.
According to Wealth-X, the foundation has given more than $36 billion to various causes. In 2016, Forbes calculated that Gates and his wife had given away 41% of their net worth. That percentage translated to $32.91 billion in hard cash.
The Oracle of Omaha is best known for his investing prowess. But he is equally adept at distributing his wealth. Estimated to be worth $86 billion by Forbes, Buffett stated that he would give away 85% of his fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2006. He also teamed up with his good friend Bill Gates and a bunch of other billionaire CEOs, including Mark Zuckerberg and Michael Bloomberg, to start the Giving Pledge in 2010. Per the Pledge’s website, it is an effort to address society’s problems through the use of funds donated by rich CEOs who have committed to donate more than half of their wealth to charity during their lifetime. Forbes states that Warren Buffett had given away 39% of his net worth, amounting to $25.54 billion, by 2016. (See also: Buffett's Giving Pledge Gains New Members).
Facebook Inc. (FB) founder Mark Zuckerberg is among the youngest (if not already the youngest) philanthropist CEOs in the world. Along with his wife Priscilla Chan, who is a pediatrician, Zuckerberg has donated to various pledges through organizations and independently. In 2010, he donated $100 million in Facebook shares to better schools in Newark, New Jersey, through a foundation. But the effort seems to have had mixed results. He also gave $25 million to fight Ebola and, along with his wife, $75 million to the San Francisco General Hospital through the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. He also gave $5 million to help put undocumented immigrants through college.
The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative was founded in 2015 and bills itself as a new kind of philanthropic institution with “world-class engineering, grant-making, impact investing, policy, and advocacy work.” It was started with a donation of $95 million worth of Facebook shares from Zuckerberg and his wife and has a broad canvas, from improving education to criminal justice reform. (See also: Zuckerberg May Spend Billions On Prison Justice Reform).