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Billionaire Who Swore He’d Give Away All His Money Before He Died Actually Did

The billionaire class is small, but they manage to avoid most of the rest of us, including obligations to pay taxes into society. Some of the ultra-wealthy have their own charity organizations, which they use to distribute some of their wealth as they see fit. But depending on the benevolence of wealth hoarders is not always the best strategy of society.

Also, most of them only give a fraction of a fraction of what they have. On the other side, there’s former billionaire Chuck Feeney. This week, Feeney signed the papers to dissolve Atlantic Philanthropies, a foundation he set up in 1982, according to the Guardian. It was a secret at the time, but over the next 38 years he gave away almost his entire fortune of eight billion dollars through his foundation.

Feeney spoke with Forbes about his momentous accomplishment.

“We learned a lot. We would do some things differently, but I am very satisfied. I feel very good about completing this on my watch,” Feeney said. “My thanks to all who joined us on this journey. And to those wondering about Giving While Living: Try it, you’ll like it.”

Feeny isn’t broke. he has supposedly set aside $2 million dollars for his retirement, which sure seems like a lot. But that means he’s given away 375,000% more than what he currently has. He made his money from selling duty-free products to tourists, and now at 89-year-old lives in an apartment in San Francisco.

Over time, he’s given to so many causes, but amongst them were enormous donations to grassroots work for Obamacare, towards abolishing the death penalty, and towards public healthcare in Vietnam. He has four daughters and one son, and apparently made them work in the summers as servers and in hotels.

Christopher Oechsli, the president and chief executive of The Atlantic Philanthropies, said that Feeney didn’t try to get other mega-rich people to go along with his views, but he didn’t really understand them.

“He would scratch his head and say ‘how many yachts or pairs of shoes do you need? What is it all this wealth accumulation about, when you can look about you and see such tremendous needs.'”

Alison Sullivan

Written by Alison Sullivan