The World's Greatest Philanthropists

The 'giving while living' superhero

Chuck Feeney not only donated all his wealth in his own lifetime, but also leads a life of disarming simplicity

Courtesy: The Atlantic Philanthropies

Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth…” Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth…”

Matthew 6. 2, 6. 3, King James Bible, Cambridge Edition

 

Those lines from the Bible suggest that the praise people get for giving and talking about it will be their only payback. Those who do their good work quietly will get a much richer reward from the Almighty. 

If there’s anyone in the philanthropic world who has adhered to those pious words — and we won’t build any suspense here because the name really will not be a give-away anyway — it is Charles ‘Chuck’ Feeney. Don’t blame yourself if you have never heard of this man. Barring an odd write-up or two over the years, he’s stayed very determinedly under the radar, despite being the founder of a multi-billion dollar company that most of us are familiar with — either as shoppers or through gifts from friends and family. At Outlook Business, too, we learnt of Feeney only about six months ago when we researched dozens of personalities across the world to build our shortlist for this special edition. 

So, who is Chuck Feeney? He is the man who pursued a novel business idea, built it into an enduring company, made his billions by selling it and then chose to give away all his wealth during his own lifetime to causes that he handpicked. The company he founded was Duty Free Shoppers (DFS), which he later sold to French luxury icon Louis Vuitton.His foundation, The Atlantic Philanthropies, which he founded in Bermuda in 1982, has already given away $6.6 billion in supreme secrecy. It is now working overtime to write the cheques for the last billion by 2016 and will be wound up by 2020. “I would like my last cheque to bounce,” Feeney f

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