Chuck Feeney: The Billionaire Who Is Trying To Go Broke

Chuck Feeney is doing something most people don’t typically do: he’s trying to give away all of his money. Oh, and the other main difference between him and most other people? Feeney has $7.5 billion dollars.

Well… had is a better word:

Chuck Feeney is the James Bond of philanthropy. Over the last 30 years he’s crisscrossed the globe conducting a clandestine operation to give away a $7.5 billion fortune derived from hawking cognac, perfume and cigarettes in his empire of duty-free shops. […] Few living people have given away more, and no one at his wealth level has ever given their fortune away so completely during their lifetime.

The story of how he’s going about giving away all his wealth is just as fascinating as the story of how he acquired it to begin with. Starting off small by selling tax-free alcohol to sailors in the US Navy, he eventually took advantage of Japan’s rebounding economy in the 1960’s by targeting a new generation of tourists. He also went so far as to spend $5 million to build the first airport in Saipan, a tropical island near Japan that he (and the analysts he hired) believed would be the next popular destination for Japanese tourists.

It’s hard for me to imagine amassing such a large fortune/empire, let alone imagine what it would be like to give most of it away. I like that Feeney is still, even in philanthropy, trying to maximize what his dollars can do.

For more about his foundation, check out Atlantic Philanthropies. Note that the foundation website may not be around after many more years, as the organization has already given away $6.2 billion of the $7.5 billion, with the remaining $1.3 billion slated to be spent by 2016. Atlantic Philanthropies will close its doors in 2020.

[via MetaFilter, photo via Atlantic Philanthropies]

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