Archive for August, 2012

Technical difficulties with Tuesday’s blog post put a bit of a damper on its publication.  (Thank you, Sarah Cirelli of WS+B for finally getting it out!)  Even so, I had a blast writing “Name That Philanthropist” and hope you enjoyed testing your knowledge of these generous folks, both past and present.  To me, the super philanthropic community is a community of heroes and, commercial viability aside, it truly is worthy of its own series of Topps trading cards.  Individual inspiration for significant giving is, of course, personal to the donor, as is the donor’s response to the kudos of others.  Some prefer accolades to anonymity.  Some revel at the thought of their name on the side of the building, others recoil.  So be it.  In my mind, whatever inspires a person to give is generally a good thing.  Trying to understand the motivation is best left to professional fundraisers.

Now, for the riddle wrapped in the enigma – Charles Feeney, one of our showcased philanthropists earlier this week, is the decidedly downscale (former) billionaire next store.  Once mistakenly listed as the 23rd richest American (Forbes 400, 1988), Chuck had, by that time, given away virtually everything to his private foundation, the Atlantic Philanthropies.  An article in today’s New York Times discusses Feeney’s approach to philanthropy and to life in general.  He grew up in a working class family in Elizabeth, NJ, served in the Air Force and attended Cornell University on the G.I. Bill.  He made his billions as the founder of the airport-based chain “Duty Free Shops” selling cigarettes and liquor to travelers “duty free.”  He kept his philanthropic impulses fairly secret until 1997.  In the last 10 years, he made a conscious decision to go a little bit more public in the hopes of inspiring some of his fellow one-percenters to share more of their fortunes.  Most surprising to me, given Chuck’s general low key approach to life, is the fact that a biography had been written about him in 2007.  The Billionaire Who Wasn’t is now on my required reading list.

According to the NYT article, Chuck lives in a building on a side street in Midtown Manhattan, buys his clothes off the rack (“I’m a shabby dresser”) and watches a television set “with the obvious girth of a model bought 20 years ago.”  (Boy do I feel guilty coveting that latest flat screen…..) He has made “decent, though not extravagant, provisions for his four daughters and one son.”  All of his children, apparently, worked through college as waiters, maids and cashiers.  Talk about real family values!! 

The Atlantic Philanthropies was founded in 1982 in Bermuda (for privacy purposes, of course) and is currently in the process of self liquidation.  It has set the end of 2016 as its deadline for grantmaking.  To date, it has have invested more than $6 billion around the world and has about $1.5 billion to go.  Its causes are sweeping and profound and range from education to health to other social issues.  More information can be found on its website.

Observation:  In this world of conspicuous consumption, reality television, corrupt bankers and politicians, and general disregard for society “except as it impacts me,” Chuck Feeney is an unlikely inspiration and refreshing presence.  I guess you can call him the “anti-Trump.”  I look forward to reading The Billionaire Who Wasn’t and learning more about this remarkable man.

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My partner, Ed Mendlowitz, recently printed up a set of Topps trading cards called (are you ready?)  “Great Accountants in History.”  His deck included such luminaries as Luca de Pacioli, the father of double entry bookkeeping (circa 1494), Charles Waldo Haskins, the first CPA leader in the US (Accounting Hall of Fame – I’m not kidding),  Ithamar, son of Aaron, the first “auditor” in the bible, and, of course, the inimitable Edward Mendlowitz himself, author of Power Bites and notorious blogger at  http://partners-network.com .  My beef with all of this is that my pack did not come with a stick of stale chewing gum.  Am I stuck in a 1960’s time warp, or isn’t the stick of stale gum a required element of trading cards?

Anyway, I think it is safe to say that the baseball card industry probably has nothing to worry about in terms of competition from this series.  I don’t even think that the “Heroes of the Torah” trading card collection will be at risk.  But it got me to thinking – why not release a series called……”Great Philanthropists, Then and Now”?  Hmm…. It may or may not have legs.  Before we invest our hard earned paper route money into that little venture, let’s do a little low cost market testing and see how many of you can actually—— 

Name that Philanthropist!

A.  This handsome fellow is said to have revolutionized the petroleum industry and defined the structure of modern philanthropy.  At one time considered the most hated man in America (go figure), he founded the University of Chicago and also a university that bears his name.   B.  Most of his fortune was earned in the steel industry and most of his charities contain his name.  How do you get to ________ Hall?  Practice, practice, practice! C.  I wonder if this photo was processed with the film pioneered by this guy – I bet it was!  He established a school of music that bears his name, as well as schools of dentistry and medicine at the University of Rochester, among others. 
D.  A metals magnate, this gentleman founded (with his mother and several others) Swarthmore College and later, the “school of finance and economy” that bears his name at the University of Pennsylvania.      E.  You probably recognize this guy, but whom does he represent?  He was a patron of the arts, a founding board member of the American Museum of Natural History, and a devout Episcopalian.   F.  Think “Revenge of the Nerds.”  This guy is currently one of the world’s wealthiest individuals and has pledged the bulk of his wealth to his foundation.  In addition, he established the “Giving Pledge” to encourage his fellow billionaires to do likewise.
G.  The “Oracle of Omaha,” this kindly looking grandfather famously said “…a very rich person should leave his kids enough to do anything but not enough to do nothing.”  He has pledged 99% of his wealth to charity, mainly through the foundation that Philanthropist “F” has established.  H.  A partner of Philanthropist “B,” he underwrote a number of charities that bear his name including the nonprofit ______ Houses in NYC which builds affordable housing.  His family fortune lives on through Bessemer Trust.   I.  The mysterious and publicity shy co-founder of DFS (Duty Free Shops, this gentleman flies coach, owns neither a home nor a car, and wears a $15 watch.  He founded the Atlantic Philanthropies which will self liquidate by 2017 – funneling approximately $9 billion to charitable works!
J.  The founder of CNN and TBS, he gave $1 billion to support UN causes by creating eht United Nations Foundation.  He is a signatory of the Giving Pledge.   K. “Revenge of the Nerds, Part II”  An internet entrepreneur, he is currently considered to be among the 100 wealthiest and most influential people in the world.   In 2010, he arranged to donate $100 million to the Newark Public Schools.  This little pisher is also a signatory to the Giving Pledge.   L.  A rather quiet and conservative singer-songwriter-performer (NOT!), this young lady recently founded the “Born This Way” Foundation to focus on youth empowerment and issues like self-confidence, well being, anti-bullying, mentoring and career development.  
M.  Canadian-American actor, producer, and activist who suffers from early-onset Parkinson’s disease.  He started a foundation that bears his name.  The foundation was created to help eradicate Parkinson’s disease.   N.  A true “rags to riches’ story, this guy was the “worldwide head of production” of Pepsi and keeper of the secret formula from the 1940’s to the 1960’s.  He started the foundation that bears his name to help those who were less fortunate than himself.   O.  A man with a very unfortunate first name (in that it was also used as the name of a product that was one of the biggest failures in his company’s history), he also established a foundation in 1936 which has gone on to become one of the most influential nonprofits in the world.  
P.  Named in 2006 on Forbes’ list of the 15 Richest Fictional Characters, he was portrayed by actor Jim Backus in the ridiculous TV sitcom “Gilligan’s Island.”  Being one of the 15 richest fictional characters, he had to be philanthropic, right????    


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