Billionaire’s Secret Charity
He wears a $15 watch, flies economy class and does not own a house or car. For years, few guessed that Chuck Feeney was one of the world’s biggest philanthropists, secretly giving away his billionaire fortune.
Born in New Jersey during the Depression to a blue-collar Irish-American family, Feeney co-founded Duty Free Shoppers (DFS), the world’s largest duty-free retail chain. He liked making money but not having it, and gave it away for years in strict secrecy. Journalist Conor O’Clery’s new book The Billionaire Who Wasn’t: How Chuck Feeney Secretly Made and Gave Away a Fortune, reveals that Feeney may be destined to go down in history as one of the greatest American philanthropists.
Witty, self-deprecating, frugal and astute, Feeney was listed by Forbes in 1988 as the 23rd richest American alive and worth $1.3 billion, richer than Rupert Murdoch and Donald Trump. He wasn’t. Four years earlier, Feeney had placed most of his money in charitable foundations. Inspired by the great 19th century philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie, Feeney helped fund schools, hospitals, universities, medical research and human rights from the United States and Ireland to South Africa and Vietnam.
“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,” he said. “I set out to work hard, not to get rich.” Now in his mid 70s, he wants his foundation should spend its remaining fortune in his lifetime.
Truly selfless and totally detached.