Who is Chuck Feeney? Billionaire, 89, fulfills lifelong dream of donating $8B fortune to charity before dying

The co-founder of Duty Free Shoppers raked in billions after forming the airport retail giant with Robert Miller in 1960


                            Who is Chuck Feeney? Billionaire, 89, fulfills lifelong dream of donating $8B fortune to charity before dying
(Standford University)

A former billionaire insists he couldn't be happier after having given away all of his wealth and going nearly broke. 89-year-old Charles 'Chuck' Feeney, the co-founder of Duty Free Shoppers, raked in billions after forming the airport retail giant with Robert Miller in 1960. However, he always wanted to die without any money, Daily Mail reported. While the philanthropist previously grabbed headlines over his promise to distribute his money among those who need it, his dream was only fulfilled this year in September -- after he donated more than a staggering $8 billion to charities, universities, and foundations via his organization Atlantic Philanthropies.

According to the report, Feeney gave "$3.7 billion to education – including nearly $1billion to his alma mater Cornell, more than $870million to human rights and social change including $62 million in grants to abolish the death penalty in the US and $76 million for grassroots campaigns supporting the passage of Obamacare." Furthermore, he shelled out over "$700 million in gifts to health causes ranging from a $270 million grant to improve public healthcare in Vietnam to a $176 million gift to the Global Brain Health Institute at the University of California, San Francisco." He also granted a $350 million donation for his alma mater to build a "technology campus" on New York City’s Roosevelt Island.

Feeney reportedly pioneered the idea of Giving While Living - an outlook that promotes spending one's fortunes on charity during one's lifetime instead of creating a posthumous foundation. "We learned a lot. We would do some things differently, but I am very satisfied. I feel very good about completing this on my watch," Feeney told Forbes magazine. "My thank to all who joined us on this journey. And to those wondering bout Giving While Living: try it, you’ll like it."

Feeney revealed in 2012 that he had set aside $2 million for his and his wife’s retirement and planned to donate the rest of his wealth. Fondly known as the 'James Bond of Philanthropy', Feeney has funded efforts to bring peace to Northern Ireland, towards modernizing Vietnam's health care system, as well as expanding education. 

"I see little reason to delay giving when so much good can be achieved through supporting worthwhile causes. Besides, it's a lot more fun to give while you live than give while you're dead," he said last year.

The former billionaire completed his four-decade mission on September 14, 2020 -- when he finally signed the documents to dissolve Atlantic Philanthropies. Feeney and his wife Helga celebrated the occasion with an intimate ceremony over Zoom with the foundation's board, and which included messages from Bill Gates and former California Governor Jerry Brown. Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also wrote Feeney an official letter from Congress appreciating his life's work.

Atlantic Philanthropies, at one point, had over 300 employees and 10 offices across seven times zones. According to the report, the closure of the firm was set years in advance as part of the philanthropist's plans to make "high-risk, high-impact donations with a hard deadline." Today, he reportedly lives in a modest apartment in San Francisco with a plaque that reads, 'Congratulations to Chuck Feeney for $8billion of philanthropic giving.'

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