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Gates, Buffet and Feeney! Wait, who is Feeney?
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Gates, Buffet and Feeney! Wait, who is Feeney?

Now if you are like most, you are scratching your head and asking the question: Who is Feeney? Well, if you travel to international destinations then you probably have gone into a duty free shop at the airport, right? Mr. Chuck Feeney was the co-founder of the Duty Free Shoppers Group (DFS Group) which started in 1965 and by the late 1970’s had many locations and profits that soared into the millions. Eventually this huge retail conglomerate was sold in 1997 to LVMH Moet Hennessy-Louis Vuitton.

Obviously, Feeney is one man who has no trouble answering the age old question. How much is enough? By 1982 he and his partners created a Bermuda based Atlantic Philanthropies: For Feeney, however, the true defining point came in 1984 at age 53 when in secret he signed an irrevocable trust transferring his entire 38.75 percent interest in his business to the foundation and leaving himself five million to live off of with a goal of devoting the rest of his life to philanthropy. With all the trappings of wealth and pleasure money can buy Mr. Feeney never forgot his New Jersey, Irish-American roots, being born into a blue collar working class family.

Interestingly in 1988, Forbes Magazine, mistakenly put him on their list as one of the richest men in America pegging his wealth at that time at $1.3 billion. Regardless, Feeney managed to continue to stay out of the limelight but had to step forward when the company he helped create was finally sold in 1997 and it was disclosed that the foundation owned his shares.

After a decade of research in 2007 journalist and author Connor O’Clery released a book about Feeney titled: The Billionaire Who Wasn’t – How Chuck Feeney Secretly Made and Gave Away a Fortune.

In the book Feeney is quoted as saying: “I had one idea that never changed in my mind — that you should use your wealth to help people. I try to live a normal life, the way I grew up…I set out to work hard, not to get rich.”

At this point Feeney, now 77, continues to live a simple life. While having once owned six luxurious homes scattered around the world he now owns none but rents and lives in a one bedroom home. He also does not own a car but prefers taxis and buses. Until age 75 he mainly flew coach but now if he has to fly he upgrades using points.

Feeney’s biggest donor demand is that of being anonymous. He does not want a building named after him or any fanfare. To say he is modest is an understatement. Don’t be surprised if you ever meet him and see him carry a plastic bag for a briefcase, using his nine dollar drugstore readers and checking the time by glancing at his fifteen dollar plastic wristwatch.

In total to date the foundation under Feeney’s direction has given away over 4.85 billion dollars and over the next twelve years will distribute his remaining fortune of over 4 billion dollars and will cease to exist by year 2020.

The foundation does not accept proposals, but rather chooses its own projects
so I ask my readers to not bombard them with emails and requests. 

DISCLAIMER: This information is not intended to provide legal or accounting advice, or to address specific situations. Please consult with your legal or tax advisor to supplement and verify what you learn here.