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Billionaire keeps promise to ‘die broke,’ gives away his entire $8 billion fortune

BGR — Mike Wehner
  • Charles “Chuck” Feeney, a multi-billionaire that has lived mostly under the radar while giving huge chunks of his fortune to charitable causes, has finally given it all away.
  • Feeney donated over $8 billion during his lifetime and now lives in an apartment in San Francisco.
  • He is credited with a great many things, including revitalizing Vietnam’s healthcare system and helping to bring peace to Northern Ireland.

If you’ve never heard of Charles “Chuck” Feeney, that’s okay. He didn’t make his fortune by heading a flashy mega-corp like Google or Microsoft, but he still managed to amass a truly incredible fortune over his lifetime. Feeny was a co-founder of a retail chain called Duty Free Shoppers which specialized in luxury goods, and he’s gradually been giving away his lifetime’s worth of earnings over the past few decades.

Now, at age 89, he’s finally fulfilled a promise he made to “die broke,” Feeny has released what remained of his over $8 billion fortune through Atlantic Philanthropies, a foundation he founded that funneled the money to a wide range of causes, including universities and charities. As Forbes reports, he’s done almost all of his giving in secret.

Unlike so many incredibly rich individuals that either horde their fortunes or go to great lengths to ensure that when they do make a donation, everyone knows about it, Feeny prefers the “giving while living” approach. He’s spent decades giving billions away and seeing the fruits of his work play out, which certainly seems like a better approach than hanging onto all of it until death and then leaving a foundation to bicker over where the money will eventually end up.

Just this week, he officially closed Atlantic Philanthropies, having given away his fortune in its entirety. Feeny, who could be living in a sprawling mansion staffed with personal assistants, private chefs, and all manner of shiny things, instead resides in a modest apartment in San Francisco.

“Chuck Feeney is a true pioneer,” Laurene Powell Jobs told Forbes. “Spending down his resources during his lifetime has inspired a generation of philanthropists, including me. And his dedication to anonymous giving — and focus on addressing the problems of the day — reflect the strength of his character and social conscience. We all follow in his footsteps.”

The number of causes that Feeny donated to over his lifetime is quite honestly too large to even begin to list here, but there are some particularly important ones. He is credited with funding peace efforts in Northern Ireland, sent huge donations to Vietnam which were used to bring their public health system to a modern standard, and gave hundreds of millions (in some cases billions) to universities including Cornell. Hundreds of millions of dollars that Cornell received were used to revitalize Roosevelt Island in New York City and create the Cornell NYC Tech Campus on the island.

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