In 1988, Forbes Magazine listed Chuck Feeney as the 23rd richest American, valued at $1.3 billion (more than both Rupert Murdoch and Donald Trump).
What they did not know was that Feeney had actually given most of his money away to charitable foundations years earlier, and continues to do so.
Feeney is one of the world’s biggest philanthropists, and he’s been giving his money away in secrecy until now.
Living by the motto, “I set out to work hard, not to get rich,” Feeney lives a frugal life (he does not own a house nor a car, flies economy class, and wears a $15 watch) according to the upbringing of his blue-collar Irish-American family.
Feeney made his fortune by co-founding Duty Free Shoppers (DFS), the world’s largest duty-free retail chain, but used its profits for the good of others.
"I had one idea that never changed in my mind -- that you should use your wealth to help people,” Feeney said.
And so he has, donating more than $4 billion, in 25 years, to fund schools, hospitals, universities, medical research, and human rights in the United States, Vietnam, Australia, South Africa, Thailand, and Cuba. Feeney is now in his mid 70s, and he plans to donate the rest of the fortune to The Atlantic Philanthropies, which he co-founded, in his lifetime.
"There are no pockets in a shroud,” he says.
This is an incredibly inspirational story that is a perfect example of how every person has the ability to change the world and contribute to the causes they believe in (even if it is on a much smaller scale).
We can all lead by example and give our time, money, and other resources to the things that really matter.
If you want to know more about the moving story of Chuck Feeney, check out the new book on his life written by journalist Conor O’Clery, The Billionaire Who Wasn‘t: How Chuck Feeney Secretly Made and Gave Away a Fortune.
MSNBC September 19, 2007