Meet Chuck Feeny: The Philanthropist Who Inspired Bill Gates And Warren Buffett
It must be hard being Chuck Feeney. He has given numerous donations that top the $300 million mark to causes all over the world as if it's nothing. In total, he's given away $7.5 billion.
He's given money help fight HIV, to abolish the death penalty in the United States, to fund alma mater Cornell, to help fight cancer, to help education in Ireland, to fund healthcare and higher education in Vietnam -- on and on it goes. The 82-year-old philanthropist has seemingly tried so hard to give away all he has to charity and, yet, he still has $2 million left in the bank.
According to the Daily Mail, the co-founder of Duty Free Shoppers Group (DFS) has been quietly giving away money since the 1980s through his foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies, while his generosity is said to have inspired the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as well as Warren Buffet's Giving Pledge.
It's not a big deal to Feeney, though. He feels that his "giving while living" lifestyle is a duty, not only for himself, but also for other wealthy people.
“People who have money have an obligation,” he told Forbes writer Steven Bertoni last year. “I wouldn’t say I’m entitled to tell them what to do with it but to use it wisely.”
The Elizabeth, New Jersey, native grew up in an Irish-American neighborhood during the great depression. He has been noted for building the DFS group, and thus his fortune, on tenacity and a willingness to always look for a good deal.
"Chuck's instincts are sensational. His competitiveness and tenacity are amazing," said his friend and fellow Cornell graduate Harvey Dale in the documentary "Secret Billionaire." "He's also completely focused. So, whenever there's an opportunity to make a change big or small to improve the business, Chuck would often see it."
And though he was immensely successful as an entrepreneur, it's clear that his personality as a philanthropist is much more impressive.
"I concluded that if you hung on to a piece of the action for yourself you’d always be worrying about that piece," he told Forbes. "People used to ask me how I got my jollies, and I guess I’m happy when what I’m doing is helping people and unhappy when what I’m doing isn’t helping people."
Photo courtesy Forbes