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Philanthropy, Like Wine, Gets Better With Age

Jackie Bennion, 30 November 2018

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UK comparison site comparethemarket.com released its Top-10 list of philanthropists this week. In defense of the headline, it should be noted that seven out of 10 of them are over 60. Here are the high notes.

Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and Michael Bloomberg earned the top three positions, with Google’s Sergey Brin the only name from a younger crop of West Coast tech luminaries making the top 10 at number 9.  China’s famously low key Ma Huateng, the engineer founder of internet giant Tencent and creator of the hugely popular social messaging service WeChat, took the number 10 spot.

Buffett, the world’s third richest man, and impressively its most charitable, has donated more than 55 per cent ($46.6 billion) of his wealth to charitable causes. Microsoft founder Bill Gates is not far behind giving away 46 per cent ($41 billion) of his lifetime earnings.

These two are the undisputed rock stars of philanthropic giving, with the former New York City mayor and Bloomberg founder some way down in third place, donating 12 per cent of his net worth to date.

The data, pulled from multiple public sources, analyses the total net worth of the world’s wealthiest and how much they donate as a percentage of lifetime earnings.

The combined net worth of the top-10 is close to half a trillion dollars ($491 billion), and they have donated $110 billion between them. It is a figure just shy of Jeff Bezos’ total net worth $112 billion. 

The Amazon chief, who unseated Gates from the Forbes richest-person list earlier this year, comes in for criticism for donating “just 1.91 per cent of his wealth ($2.1 billion) to charities, less than the average precentage a salaried person gives in their lifetime,” the study noted.

It still earned Bezos a 17th spot and time for the 54-year-old to improve his ranking. The average age of the top-50 most charitable billionaires is 66, which may account for Facebook Mark Zuckerberg’s absence from the top table. He is only 34.

On a regional scale, the US is streets ahead of the rest of the world as the most philanthropic country, with 60 per cent of the top 20 most philanthropic billionaires coming from the US. China, Hong Kong and the UK are next in line, with two billionaires each making the list.

Denise Coates, British founder of the global online betting group Bet365, is the most philanthropic female billionaire, publicly donating around 2.4 per cent of her earnings to charitable causes. Coates was under the media glare this month when her, arguably eye-watering, £265 million annual compensation became public. 

Three other women make the top 20: French L’Oreal heir Françoise Bettencourt Meyers; Gina Rinehart, chair of Australian minerals giant Hancock Prospecting, and West Coast businesswoman Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Apple cofounder Steve Jobs. 

A number of Asian billionaires also feature and will surely swell the ranks in future years as the wealth generation continues to shift east. He Xiangjian, the largest shareholder and founder of Chinese appliance giant Midea, now in his seventies, takes the number 9 spot. Just above him is the Hong Kong shipping magnate Li Ka-Shing, who at 90 has only just stepped down as chair of CK Hutchison. Mexico’s telco scion Carlos Slim, a regular on such lists, took the number 6 slot. 

The study notes that 72 per cent of the top-50 most generous givers still part with less as a percentage of their lifetime earnings than the average salaried person, who gives $30,040 - 2.23 per cent of their lifetime earnings.

 

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