The World's Richest Men In £32bn Giveaway
The world's richest men, the computer magnate Bill Gates and the financier Warren Buffett, announced a $60 billion (£32 billion) alliance yesterday to attack global poverty and disease. The decision by Mr Buffett to hand most of his vast personal fortune to a foundation run by Mr Gates and his wife Melinda is unprecedented both in scale and ambition. It marked the latest chapter in America's great philanthropic tradition which, for more than 150 years, has encouraged the country's extremely wealthy to give money to the poor. During a joint appearance in the grandiose New York Public Library, itself a monument to early 20th century philanthropy, Mr Gates said of the gift: "It's almost scary. If I make a mistake with my own money it just doesn't feel the same as making a mistake with Warren's money." Mr Buffett, known as the "Sage of Omaha" for his uncannily successful investment record, caused some laughter by promising not to assess Mr Gates's efforts more than once a day. advertisement Looking at the Microsoft founder, he explained: "You can do a better job of giving it away than I can." Mr Buffett was asked time and again why he had not handed all the money to his three children and responded: "I am not an enthusiast for dynastic wealth, particularly when the alternative is six billion people having much poorer 'hands' in life than we have." But the financier, 75, did give stock worth several billion dollars to foundations run by his three children. Around 80 per cent of his $44 billion fortune will go in annual instalments to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for as long as the couple live. Mr Gates, the chairman of Microsoft, recently announced that he would be spending less time with his company and more time on his philanthropic interests. His foundation aims to reduce inequality, particularly in the developing world and to improve education in America. It says it is "guided by the belief that every life has equal value". It has funded large programmes to fight mass killers in the Third World such as Aids, malaria and tuberculosis, as well as to public libraries in America. Mr Buffett said the couple had committed themselves "to a few extraordinarily important but underfunded issues, a policy that I believe offers the highest probability of your achieving goals of great consequence". The sums of money involved are huge. The gift is the largest in American history and will allow the foundation to spend close to $3 billion (£1.7 billion) a year, about a quarter of the United Nations annual budget. That will greatly increase the already substantial influence enjoyed by Mr and Mrs Gates, to whom few doors are closed. The couple said they were "awed" by the contribution and invited Mr Buffett to join them on the foundation's board. Their work presented "a tremendous opportunity to make a positive difference in people's lives", they said. In some ways, Mr Buffett is an odd companion for Mr Gates. He has steered clear of technology stocks for years and represents an older and less self-conscious America. Known for his titanic thirst for Coca-Cola and appetite for red meat, he has a reputation for frugality. But he also has a long-stated admiration for Mr Gates. "If Bill had started a hot-dog stand he would have become the hot-dog king of the world. He will win in any game," he said. Mr Buffett, who still lives in the Omaha home he bought for $30,000 (£17,000) and nicknames his private jet "The Indefensible", has long warned his children that they would not get all his money. Instead 53-year-old Susie, 53, a housewife, 51-year-old Howard, a photographer, and 48-year-old Peter, a musician, will receive large bequests to run their own foundations. "They'll be wealthy, there's no question about that, but the idea of dynastic fortune turns me off," he once said. "The idea that you hand over huge positions in society simply because someone came from the right womb … I just think it's almost un-American." Mr Buffett denied suggestions that his decision might be linked to poor health. "My doctor tells me that I am in excellent health and I certainly feel that I am," he said. That will be a relief for American investors, who have a well-grounded faith in all Mr Buffett's doings. Anyone who invested $1 in his company 40 years ago would have seen it grow to $20,000. That amounts to 100 times the stock market return over the same period. Although Mr Buffett and Mr Gates are confronting some of the most intractable problems in the world, experts have judged positively the foundation's efforts so far. Followers of Mr Gates believe that his business acumen will help achieve better results than those of charities and governments working towards the same ends. The foundation has 275 staff, which is now expected to grow to around 500. Based at an anonymous building in Seattle and devoid of signs, some have nicknamed it "The Undisclosed Location".
Please rate this
Gadget Votes: 0 |NaN out of 5