Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are looking for a few good billionaires.
The Microsoft Corp. co-founder who has for a long time been crowned as the world’s richest man, according to Forbes, and his friend, the billionaire investor known as the “Oracle of Omaha,” who is just a seat behind in the pecking order of world wealth, have partnered to launch a campaign to get other American billionaires to give at least half their wealth to charity right now, or at least before they die.
You can only imagine the amount of puckering in the upper crest of wealth across the country.
In the worst economy in modern times when the hint of double-digit inflation is on the horizon, it is counter-intuitive to the nation’s wealthiest to increase contributions. After all, how do you think they got rich?
Gates and Buffett are calling their campaign The Giving Pledge, and surprising enough, they don’t have a Web site.
Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., said in a letter introducing the concept that he couldn’t be happier with his decision in 2006 to give 99 percent of his roughly $46 billion fortune to charity.
Patty Stonesifer, former CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, told the Associated Press on Wednesday that Gates and Buffett have been campaigning for the past year to get others to donate the bulk of their wealth.
The handful of billionaires have been approached so far and have embraced the campaign, said Stonesifer.
Four wealthy couples have already announced their pledges, including:
- Los Angeles philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad.
- Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest of Philadelphia.
- John and Ann Doerr of Menlo Park, California.
- John and Tasha Mortgridge of San Jose, California.
Buffett’s plan will eventually split most of his shares of his Omaha, Nebraska, company between five charitable foundations, with the largest chunk going to the Gates Foundation.
Besides Buffett’s pledge to the foundation, he also plans to give Class B Berkshire shares to the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, which he and his late first wife started, and the three foundations run by his three children.
Buffett said in 2006 that his other 73,332 Class A shares of Berkshire stock, worth about $8 billion, would also go to philanthropy, but he didn’t spell out how those shares would be distributed.
Bill and Melinda Gates have made a similar pledge through the establishment of their Seattle-based foundation.
Gates and Buffett are asking each individual or couple who make a pledge to do so publicly, with a letter explaining their decision.
“The pledge is a moral commitment to give, not a legal contract. It does not involve pooling money or supporting a particular set of causes or organizations,” they explain in a written statement about the project.