60 Minutes On Feeney
CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes will feature a major segment on reclusive billionaire Chuck Feeney, who is the subject of a major new biography, The Billionaire Who Wasn't, which will be released next week. The book was written by former Irish Times journalist Conor O'Clery, as you'll read in our arts pages this week.
Feeney, of course, is famous for giving away his fortune, including well over a billion dollars to worthy causes in Ireland. He did so quietly and without fanfare, but the new book is a fascinating account of how the greatest giver since Rockefeller and Carnegie managed to pull it off.
Now that his story is going public Feeney is taking the opportunity to push his message of "giving while living." No doubt that will make fascinating watching when the 60 Minutes folks get him on the record.
His belief is that there are no pockets in a shroud as the Irish say, and that billionaires today will likely ruin their families by leaving all their wealth to them rather than by donating it to worthy causes.
He certainly has won two major converts with Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, who are the two richest men in America and who have both decided to follow the Feeney example.
Feeney in Belfast
THE Feeney book includes an excellent chapter on his involvement in the Irish peace process. Feeney won much notice for agreeing to fund Sinn Fein's operation in the U.S. in order to help the process develop further.
It was a wildly controversial decision at the time but, as usual, hindsight now shows it was an inspired choice by the New Jersey born-billionaire who made his fortune through the Duty Free Shops chain.
There is also gripping coverage of the many trips Feeney took to Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles in his efforts to bring about a peaceful resolution, including a chance meeting with Gerry Adams which makes amazing reading.
He was a part of a small Irish American core group that undertook the mission to involve the Clinton White House in the North, and he can take much of the credit for the successful outcome.
THE Feeney book is familiar territory for O'Clery, one of whose previous books, Daring Diplomacy, covered the story of the aforementioned Irish American delegation and did an in-depth analysis of the American role in the Irish peace process.
O'Clery, now based in Dublin after retiring from The Irish Times, is as active as ever, however, in writing new books and researching.
His work on the Feeney book was phenomenal and involved dozens of countries and several hundred individuals as he painstakingly recreated the life of one of America's most secretive and fascinating billionaires.
It took a stellar talent like O'Clery to do it, as the many facets of Feeney's life - philanthropist, billionaire, family man, businessman, Irish advocate - took an enormous amount of research.
O'Clery left an indelible mark when he was the American correspondent for The Irish Times. He was an eyewitness to 9/11 as his apartment actually looked out on the Twin Towers, and he saw firsthand what unfolded that dreadful morning.