Charles “Chuck” Feeney is a California former billionaire who intentionally went “broke” after donating all of his wealth to charities.
The 89-year-old, amassing billions as the co-founder of Duty Free Shoppers, made a life-long pledge to donate every penny of his wealth before he dies, Forbes reported.
And this month, Feeney did just that.
Over the last 40 years, the billionaire donated through his organization Atlantic Philanthropies more than $8 billion to foundations, schools and charities worldwide, the outlet continued.
Meet the man who inspired @TheGivingPledge and gave away $8 Billon
General Atlantic founder, Chuck Feeneyhttps://t.co/c26ngWGmLf
— Bill SPACman 📈 (@BillSPACman) September 17, 2020
The San Francisco resident marked the end of his four-decade mission on September 14, formally signing the paperwork to dissolve his philanthropy, Forbes said.
The ceremony took place via zoom and featured video messages and letters from the likes of Bill Gates, former California Gov. Jerry Brown and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi — all of which thanked him for his service, the outlet continued.
“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 told Forbes. “My thanks to all who joined us on this journey. And to those wondering about Giving While Living: Try it, you’ll like it.”
Here’s what you need to know about Charles “Chuck” Feeney:
1. Feeney is Irish-American & Hails From New Jersey
In 1931, Feeney was born to an Irish-American family in Elizabeth, New Jersey, according to the Atlantic Philanthropies website.
His mother was a nurse and his father underwrote insurance, the organization continued.
Feeney was the first of his family to attend a university, landing at Cornell University after a four-year radio operator stint for U.S. Air Force intelligence in Japan.
2. Dubbed the ‘James Bond of Philanthropy,’ Feeney Was 51 When he Started The Atlantic
Through Atlantic Philanthropies, Feeney donated more than $8 billion over the last 40 years to charities, universities and foundations across the globe, Forbes reported.
Feeney was inspired by his mother’s “charitable impulse” to found The Atlantic Foundation, the first of The Atlantic Philanthropies, in 1982, according to his Atlantic Philanthropies bio.
Although he has since donated more than $8 billion across the globe, he never wanted the recognition, the organization continues.
“There was one catch, however: Feeney wanted Atlantic’s giving to be anonymous,” his bio reads.
Forbes Magazine dubbed Feeney the “James Bond of Philanthropy.”
3. Feeney Co-Founded Duty Free Shoppers in 1960
Feeney co-founded the retail giant with Robert Miller in 1960, according to Atlantic Philanthropies. The company now operates in 11 major airports and 20 Galleria stores, CNN added.
In 2017, roughly 160 million travelers visited Duty Free Shoppers locations, the outlet continued.
“In 1984, he secretly transferred all of his assets, including his 38.75 percent ownership of the duty-free business, to Atlantic Philanthropies,” The New York Times reported.“He grew the Atlantic pot with early investments in companies like Facebook, Priceline, E-Trade, Alibaba and Legent.”
Feeney was forced to reveal his charitable donations in 1997 following a business dispute, according to Atlantic Philanthropies.
4. Feeney is Bill Gate’s Idol
— Bill Gates (@BillGates) July 21, 2017
In July 2017, Bill Gates tweeted that Feeney was one of his “heroes,” writing: “.@atlantic founder Chuck Feeney is one of my heroes. I’ve learned a lot from his ‘giving while living’ philosophy.”
Forbes reported that Feeney’s giving nature was the inspiration behind Gates’ and Warren Buffett’s 2010 Giving Pledge, which encourages the rich to donate at least half of their wealth before they die.
“Chuck was a cornerstone in terms of inspiration for the Giving Pledge,” Buffett expressed to the outlet. “He’s a model for us all. It’s going to take me 12 years after my death to get done what he’s doing within his lifetime.”
5. Feeney Rents a San Francisco Apartment With His Wife & Lives a Frugal Life
Despite his acquired riches, Feeney lives in a “modest” San Francisco apartment rental with his wife, Helga, according to The Irish Times.
The New York Times added that the billionaire traveled only in coach until he was 75.
“Until he was 75, he traveled only in coach, and carried reading materials in a plastic bag,” the newspaper reported.
“For many years, when in New York, he had lunch not at the city’s luxury restaurants, but in the homey confines of Tommy Makem’s Irish Pavilion on East 57th Street, where he ate the burgers.”