The Billionaire Who Wasn’t

by Dual Income No Kids on April 15, 2008 · 0 comments

Inspiration often comes in strange places. My wife for example, loves Oprah. I tend to be motivated by stories of great achievers. This brings me to the subject of this posting: Charles F. Feeney. Feeney is one of America’s greatest philanthropists. Over the course of his life he has made and given away over 4 billion dollars.

Originally from New Jersey, Feeney was born into a blue collar Irish American family. After attending Cornell on a GI bill, Feeney became involved in selling duty free liquor to sailors in France in late 1950s. – The business took off and his company Duty Free Shoppers – DFS – began to yield huge profits. By the end of the 1970s he was receiving over $23 million a year. Finally, in 1996 he sold his stake in DFS to luxury goods company Louis Vuitton, for a price of $1.62 billion.

What did Feeney do with the money? – He gave it away.

In 1982 Feeney set up the Atlantic Foundation in Bermuda and started making the world a better place. Among his giving he’s included:

– $150 million for university research centers in Ireland
– Cash for a waste water treatment plant in DaNang, Vietnam
– Funding for the peace processes in Northern Ireland
– $600 to Cornell University
– Grants for home health care visits in the Bronx and AIDs clinics in South Africa
– $125 million to Stanford University
– Support for Amnesty International and Human Rights First

The big question now is if Feeley will be able to unload all his wealth before he passes away. His foundation has targeted disbursing all its funds by 2017, but his business investments have achieved an annual return of 29% – leaving them with billions yet to donate.

For more on Feeney check out the New York Times article.

His foundation is here.

Best,

James

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