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Monday, June 26, 2006

Do you want to change the world?

Chris Machian/Bloomberg News
Warren E. Buffett

Buffett to Give Bulk of His Fortune to Gates Charity

Published: June 26, 2006

Warren E. Buffett, the chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and one of the world's wealthiest men, plans to donate the bulk of his $44 billion fortune to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and four other philanthropies starting in July.

The donations, outlined in a series of letters that Mr. Buffett released yesterday and will execute today, represent a singular and historic act of charitable giving that vaults him into the top tier of industrialists and entrepreneurs like Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller Sr., Henry Ford, J. Paul Getty, W. K. Kellogg and Mr. Gates himself, all men whose fortunes have endowed some of the world's richest private foundations.

Mr. Buffett plans to give away 85 percent of his fortune, or about $37.4 billion, all in Berkshire stock. Of that amount, he will channel the greatest share, about $31 billion, into the Gates Foundation. The Gates Foundation, dedicated to improving health and education, especially in poor nations, is already the United States' largest grant-making foundation, with current assets of almost $30 billion. Mr. Buffett's huge contribution may permanently solidify that philanthropy's standing as the biggest and most influential organization of its kind. Mr. Buffett will join Mr. and Mrs. Gates as a trustee of their foundation.

The immense size of the assets at the disposal of the Gates Foundation as a result of the partnership is apparent when compared with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or Unesco, which had a budget of $610 million for 2004-05. The Gates Foundation made $1.36 billion in grant payments in 2005; at a minimum, Mr. Buffett's contribution may eventually allow the foundation to more than double that amount annually once he transfers all of his stock.

Mr. Buffett's contribution will not be made all at once, but rather in smaller annual increments. Moreover, the distribution could change in an as-yet unspecified way if Mr. Buffett dies before the entire sum is paid. The terms of the donation also require the continued active participation of at least one of the Gateses for the payments to continue.

The genius of this is that it will save millions in administrative costs compared to setting up his own foundation. Most wealthy men don't have the lack of ego to pool their money in this way.

posted by Steve @ 1:44:00 AM

1:44:00 AM

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