Irish American Chuck Feeney has been called the James Bond of Philanthropy and was praised by Bill Gates. The New Jersey native and part-time Irish resident is the subject of a major profile in Forbes magazine.
Speaking to Forbes magazine, Bill Gates said Feeney was the inspiration behind both the $30 billion-strong Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Giving While Living Pledge. These groups have enlisted more than 90 of the world’s richest to grant their wealth to charity.
Gates said, “Chuck is fond of saying that none of us has all the answers but I know that Melinda and I have learned a great deal from him in the time we’ve spent together.”
He added, “Chuck Feeney is a remarkable role model and the ultimate example of giving while living.”
Feeney recently visited Ireland, where he received an honorary degree from all nine irish universities and was nominated by the Irish government for a President’s Award.
The Forbes article calls Feeney “The James Bond of philanthropy” describing how in a “clandestine operation” he has given away $7.5 billion of his fortune, made in duty-free shops.
Through Atlantic Philanthropies Feeney has funneled $6.2 billion into education, science, health care, aging and civil rights in the US, Australia, Vietnam, Bermuda, South Africa, and Ireland. By 2016 it is Feeney’s plan that he will have spent the remaining $1.3 billion. He plans to die broke.
In 1984, Feeney transferred his 38.75 percent ownership stake in Duty Free Shoppers to what became Atlantic Philanthropies.
He told Forbes: “I concluded that if you hung on to a piece of the action for yourself you’d always be worrying about that piece.
“People used to ask me how I got my jollies, and I guess I’m happy when what I’m doing is helping people and unhappy when what I’m doing isn’t helping people.”
Feeney estimates that now he has a personal fortune of $2 million but still he wears a simple navy blazer and a plastic Casio watch.
When asked why he never lived the “high-life” he said, “I’m always the first guy to ask how much is that or what does it cost?
“I never tried it because I knew I wouldn’t like it.”
When asked why he has often been without a car and never owned a yacht he joked, “I guess the answer to that is I get seasick easy.”
Feeney lives out of three apartments, in Dublin, Brisbane, and San Francisco, and stays in his daughter’s apartment in New York. Atlantic Irish operations are located in a house on St Stephen’s Green, where Feeney stays in the muse house in the garden.
How he has lived his life is a model for what he wants to teach billionaire philanthropists. Don’t waste your money away when you’re old or dead – make substantial donations while you have the energy, connections and influence to do so.
He said, “People who have money have an obligation.
“I wouldn’t say I’m entitled to tell them what to do with it but to use it wisely.”