Warren Buffett announced Wednesday that he has made a $ 4.1 billion donation of Berkshire Hathaway shares to five foundations – and is stepping down as trustee of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the largest philanthropies in the world. The CEO of Berkshire Hathaway made the announcement while sharing the latest update on his charitable donation, while defending the pace at which he has donated his immense fortune. Now 90 years old, Buffett says he is halfway to his goal of giving up almost all of his net worth.
Buffett was not specific about why he resigned from the Gates Foundation, which has been a primary recipient of his donations for more than a decade. In his letter, the billionaire remarked that his goals were “100% synchronized” with the foundation, that he had been an “inactive trustee,” and that he had resigned from all other boards of directors. companies that are not Berkshire Hathaway ”.
Buffett’s announcement comes less than two months after Bill and Melinda Gates they announced their divorce and like Bill Gates makes an ongoing poll on past conduct in work and extramarital affairs. The focus of Buffett’s letter, however, seems to deal with how he approaches philanthropy at a time of intense criticism of inequality of wealth and billionaire power. Buffett has generally defended his accumulation of wealth, and seems to argue that the benefits of the common interest have justified his gradual approach to selling his shares.
Meanwhile, the $ 4.1 billion donation isn’t necessarily surprising. The business tycoon has been talking about donating most of his wealth since at least 2006, when he announced he would donate most of his wealth to the Gates Foundation. He then made large donations of Berkshire Hathaway shares to the foundation, and in 2010, he worked with the Gateses to establish the Giving Pledge, a public pact among the ultrarich to donate at least half of his wealth to charity. Several billionaires, including MacKenzie Scott and Mark Zuckerberg, have since he signed. Now that it’s been 15 years since his original announcement about giving to the Gates Foundation, Buffett recognizes that philanthropy is complicated.
“The easiest act in the world is to give money that will never be of real use to you or your family. The gift is painless and can very well lead to a better life for you and your children,” Buffett said. written in the letter. “The second step in pouring huge sums of money is more challenging, especially when the goal is to focus on crucial issues that have been so long difficult to conquer or even grind.”
But Buffett gives his money more slowly than some other billionaires. Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, announced earlier this month that she was donating $ 2.7 billion of his wealth to various causes. Overall, it gave $ 8.5 billion last year; by the end of 2020, he was giving up $ 1 billion a month. Scott has also moved away from other members of the ultrarich to give their money directly to organizations, rather than through foundations. He also criticized the economy that allowed his wealth, called “systems that need to change.”
It’s a very different tone from Buffett, who on Wednesday noted that he made his fortune doing what he loved.
“A common interest, a long track record, wonderful partners and our incredible country have only worked their magic,” he wrote.
It is worth noting that many billionaires, including Bezos and Laurene Powell Jobs, they didn’t signed the Giving Pledge, and others have been slow to find a clear and deliberate strategy for his philanthropy. Billionaires are also growing increasingly unpopular. Vox and Data for Progress polling since the beginning of this year have found that the American public is skeptical about the idea that billionaires are modeled and frustrated by the growth of their wealth in the pandemic. New reporting on how the rich ignore it federal taxes on income makes these figures even less sympathetic.
It all means that the importance and dynamics of billionaire philanthropy is only growing. Billionaires become more abundant and more powerful, making charities more dependent on their funds and their critics more anxious to curb the power of the ultrarich. This growing frustration with the rich, and how they use their money, contrasts sharply with Buffett’s words, which he seems otherwise happy as he moves away from his roles.
“I’m optimistic,” Buffett wrote in closing. “Even though leaders have abounded – as they have had all my life – the best days of America are certainly ahead. What has happened here since 1776 has not been a historic fortune.”