Warren Buffett Donating $37 Billion to Gates Foundation
Warren Buffett is giving most of his money to Bill Gate’s world health philanthropy.
The world’s second-richest man, Warren Buffett, became one of the world’s biggest philanthropists Sunday with the announcement that he would bequeath the bulk of his roughly $44 billion fortune to the foundation established by billionaire Bill Gates and his wife. The decision to start giving next month through annual stock donations represents a stark reversal for the investment wizard, who for years had said his wealth would be pledged to philanthropies after his death.
Buffett’s gift will radically boost the resources of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is already the world’s largest philanthropy with assets of more than $29 billion. Earlier this month, the world’s richest man and Microsoft Corp. co-founder decided to give up his daily duties at the software company in 2008 to spend more time at his foundation, which is considered a leader in international public health, particularly in the fight against HIV, malaria and tuberculosis. Gates also serves as a board member of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., Buffett’s investment conglomerate, and the men socialize regularly.
The 75-year-old Berkshire chairman and CEO had been expected to leave his vast holdings of Berkshire stock largely to the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, begun by Buffett and his late wife. That foundation has given millions of dollars to hospitals, universities and teachers, as well as to Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights groups.
Buffett said he plans to give away 12,050,000 Class B shares of Berkshire Hathaway stock to the foundations, but he will have to convert some of his 474,998 Class A shares to complete the gifts. One Class A share, which sold for $92,100 on Friday, can be converted into 30 Class B shares, which sold for $3,071 Friday. The gifts would be worth nearly $37 billion based on Friday’s closing share price.
Buffett told Fortune that he decided to start giving his money away now because he has been impressed with Bill and Melinda Gates and the work they’ve done through their foundation. And he decided it would be easier to give to a large foundation instead of trying to expand his own foundation. “What can be more logical, in whatever you want done, than finding someone better equipped than you are to do it?” Buffett told the magazine. “Who wouldn’t select Tiger Woods to take his place in a high-stakes golf game? That’s how I feel about this decision about my money.”
More from the Fortune piece:
Up to now, the two Gateses have been the only trustees of their foundation. But as his plan gets underway, Buffett will be joining them. Bill Gates says he and his wife are “thrilled” by that and by knowing that Buffett’s money will allow the foundation to “both deepen and accelerate” its work. “The generosity and trust Warren has shown,” Gates adds, “is incredible.” Beginning in July and continuing every year, Buffett will give a set, annually declining number of Berkshire B shares – starting with 602,500 in 2006 and then decreasing by 5% per year – to the five foundations. The gifts to the Gates foundation will be made either by Buffett or through his estate as long as at least one of the pair — Bill, now 50, or Melinda, 41 — is active in it.
I always had the idea that philanthropy was important today, but would be equally important in one year, ten years, 20 years, and the future generally.
And someone who was compounding money at a high rate, I thought, was the better party to be taking care of the philanthropy that was to be done 20 years out, while the people compounding at a lower rate should logically take care of the current philanthropy.
A staggering sum, indeed. Quite interesting that he’d give it to Gates’ foundation rather than his own, if nothing else but for name legacy purposes, but there’s something to be said for betting on a still-young Bill Gates. As a bonus, I’d certainly rather see the money used to help sick kids instead of abortion activism.