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Rich man? No, a poor man

Resource type: News

The Irish Independent |

Original Source By Susan Daly The great philanthropist Andrew Carnegie once said that inheriting a fortune was a curse. Cast one eye over the troubled offspring of assorted rock stars, billionaires and celebrities and Carnegie’s words ring true today. Now a new generation of Daddy Warbucks are thinking twice about leaving vast fortunes to their children. They are choosing instead to leave aside enough to make their families comfortable — and investing the rest in charitable causes. Last week, entrepreneur Duncan Bannatyne — best known to Irish audiences as one of the stars of TV hit Dragon’s Den — said that he would be giving his €380m fortune to charity. The Scotsman has six children, but he reckons he is doing them a favour by withholding the easy buck. “Look at the examples of children whose lives have been ruined,” he remarked. “There are children who don’t have a purpose in life, don’t know how to live properly, are on drugs.” His announcement comes hot on the heels of Body Shop founder Anita Roddick’s willing all of her €65m to her charitable foundation when she died last year. Roddick’s children Sam and Justine had obviously been instilled with their mother’s altruism. Sam said of her legacy: “You can’t argue about someone giving their money away, can you? They’ve already given us everything in terms of love and support.” One wonders if hotel heiress Paris Hilton was quite so philosophical when her grandfather William Barron Hilton announced last December that he was leaving 97pc of his vast fortune to the Conrad N Hilton Foundation. The donation was all the more sweet for the contrast it provided to the life of Paris, who is a symbol of celebrity privilege. Not that she or her siblings will starve — they had separate multi-million dollar trust funds established for them when they were born. The intention of the new philanthropist, after all, is not to punish the next generation, but to set them a good example of how to redistribute their wealth. Warren Buffett, the super-rich American investor, made the world’s largest-ever donation when he pledged his €9.6 billion fortune to charity. His philosophy is that a rich person should leave their children “just enough so they can do anything, but not enough that they can do nothing”. It is all part of the new philanthropy, which demands that the rich should be ‘giving while living’. Along with Bannatyne last week, another British man — financier Chris Hohn — announced last week that he is giving away €633m to good causes. The desire to do something meaningful with their good fortune may have something to do with the fact that much of the new philanthropists’ wealth is self-made. They want to take charge of the investment, and see an efficient return on it. In that respect, with an economy that boomed enough to create thousands of newly rich citizens, Ireland should be a breeding ground for philanthropy. The organisation Philanthropy Ireland was set up in 1998 to encourage a culture of giving among Ireland’s new moneyed elite. Philanthropy Ireland chairman Liam O’Dwyer says that the profile of those getting involved in philanthropy is changing. “It’s called venture philanthropy and is distinguished in some ways from tradition where people leave chunks of money in endowment and their name to go on in perpetuity. Now people are not just giving the money away, they give their skills and expertise. Part of what attracts them is a sense of return on the investment, so to speak, giving while living.” Irish-American businessman Chuck Feeney has long been the linchpin of philanthropy in Ireland, having donated over €352m to causes here between 1992 and 2002 alone. Irish business stalwarts like Sir Anthony O’Reilly, Michael Smurfit, Bernard McNamara, Lochlainn Quinn and Peter Sutherland have been noted for their contributions to educational institutions. More are joining the super-donors every year — Stuart Kenny, former chairman of Paddy Power Bookmakers, gave a quarter of his shares in the company to a charitable company, and Allen McClay, of Northern Irish pharmaceuticals giant Galen, has donated almost €40m to various causes. Even the way in which the truly wealthy transfer their riches has changed. Where once, charitable giving involved so-called status philanthropy — when a donor’s name ended up on a hospital wing, for example — the rich are now increasingly interested in seeing their money go to work. This is social enterprise writ large. Irishman Niall Mellon — honoured by Philanthropy Ireland for his international work last year — has not merely contributed a large chunk of his own wealth. He is also hands-on in the Niall Mellon Township Trust, which builds substantial new dwellings for the poorest of the poor. Declan Ryan, son of Ryanair founder Tony Ryan, devotes his energies to his One Foundation, which he co-founded. It makes grants to social entrepreneurs and charities for young people. JP McManus, who was named Philanthropist of the Year 2007, is discreet about his donations which are thought to be in the region of €60m so far — and rising. On a more global scale, Bono’s contributions from his bank balance remain unestimated but the U2 frontman has become a powerful force in driving forward the causes of the world’s most vulnerable people. His (Product) RED campaign enlists corporate sponsors to donate profits from certain products and his ONE: Make Poverty History campaign has become a lobbying group with access to some of the most powerful leaders in the world. Bono also represents the confluence between celebrity and philanthropy, if an uneasy one. Media mogul Ted Turner appeared to launch the Age of New Philanthropy with his €642m pledge to the UN in 1997 — especially when he challenged other billionaires to do the same. Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda took him at his word. They have both dedicated themselves to overseeing the distribution of their immense fortune through their foundation which tries to find cures for diseases in developing countries. They also won’t be leaving the bulk of what fortune remains to their three children. Jennifer, Rory and Phoebe will get €7m million each — and the remaining €40 billion goes to the foundation. Both Turner and the Gates are celebrities of sorts, but they have the spending power to justify the attention their donations receive. Bono, likewise, is respected in political circles for his serious attention to detail in his campaigns. Other celebrities, however, have been accused of attracting more publicity than the value of their philanthropy deserves. Oprah Winfrey is one of the best-known philanthropists in the States — and rightly so, considering the €37m she doled out to charities last year. But Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were also lauded when it emerged that they had given €2.6m of their hard-earned cash to charities in Namibia and beyond. They certainly got more attention than Barbra Streisand’s €7.5m donations or Tiger Woods’ €6m which his foundation distributed in educational programmes. Critics of celebrity givers might sound mean-spirited, but to put it in context the top single donation to the Carnegie Foundation in the US last year was €38.5 million. The donor remained anonymous. Perhaps he/she was scared of what the kids would say. ©

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