Friday, January 18, 2013

Secret Billionaire

We are rich not by what we possess, but rather how we live our lives -- it's better to live rich than to die rich.

Charles F. Feeney was born in 1931 in Elizabeth, New Jersey, into a blue-collar Irish-American family. He served as a radio operator in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War and attended Cornell University on the G.I. Bill.

In the 1950s, Feeney began his career by selling duty-free liquor to U.S. Naval personnel in Mediterranean ports.

In 1960, he co-founded the "Duty Free Shoppers Group" (DFS Group) with Robert Warren Miller, headquartered in Hong Kong. Duty free shopping is a concept that offers travelers high-end products free of import fees.

DFS eventually became the world's largest travel retailer.

In 1982, Feeney founded "The Atlantic Philanthropies" which supports global social projects through endowments and grants. He created his charitable organization in Bermuda which would allow him to avoid U.S. financial disclosure requirements, but also meant he would be unable to claim tax deductions when he contributed to his various charitable causes. Basically, he wanted to remain anonymous in his giving and wasn't seeking any tax breaks for doing so.

Feeney then began giving sizeable charitable donations anonymously to causes in the USA, Australia, Ireland, Bermuda, South Africa, Vietnam and elsewhere.

"I set out to work hard, not to get rich," Charles Feeney proclaims. Known as a frugal person, he does not own a home or a car, and always flies coach class.

In 1996, Feeney sold his share of DFS to a French luxury item group and  became a very wealthy man.

The following year, Feeney disclosed his role in Atlantic Philanthropies, after 15 years of anonymous donations, yet continued to keep a low profile. He reluctantly disclosed his anonymity when he became involved in a legal matter involving his former DFS Group partner, fearing it would reveal his identity and the donations involved.

As of 2009, Atlantic Philanthropies had made charitable donations totaling more than $9 billion to various projects all over the world, with plans to contribute the remaining $4 billion by the end of 2017.

"I cannot think of a more personally rewarding and appropriate use of wealth than to give while one is living -- to personally devote oneself to meaningful efforts to improve the human condition." Charles Feeney

Feeney's biography was also made public, with his cooperation, in a book titled THE BILLIONAIRE WHO WASN'T: HOW CHUCK FEENEY MADE AND GAVE AWAY A FORTUNE WITHOUT ANYONE KNOWING by Conor O'Clery

There's nothing wrong with individuals possessing riches, the wrong occurs when the riches possess individuals.

Quote for the Day -- "He who is contented is rich." Lao Tzu

Bret Burquest is the author of 9 books, including THE REALITY OF THE ILLUSION OF REALITY and 11:11 EARTH TIME (available on Amazon). He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where $4 billion will go a very long way.


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