About Us Contact Us Privacy Policy
© GOOD Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Meet the 'James Bond of philanthropy,' a billionaire who gave it all away

Chuck Feeney was born during the Great Depression and dedicated his entire life to supporting charities across the world.

Meet the 'James Bond of philanthropy,' a billionaire who gave it all away
Image Source: Atlantic Philanthropies / Twitter

As the pandemic rages on, we have heard about several wealthy folks who have only just gotten wealthier because of the public health crisis (Bezos, we are looking at you, mate). At a time when it seems that our governments and the wealthiest do not seem to quite care about the most disadvantaged among us, it is heartening to learn of Chuck Feeney, the "James Bond of philanthropy." This billionaire made his money by selling luxury duty-free goods to travelers but was never interested in retaining wealth himself. He spent his entire life donating his fortune to institutions that needed it most, BBC News reports.



Now 89 years old, Feeney has successfully donated almost $9 billion to organizations worldwide. In addition to this, he donated $570 million to charities in Northern Ireland over the course of 40 years through his private foundation -- the Atlantic Philanthropies. But where did his desire to donate his life's fortunes come from? According to Conor O'Clery, who wrote a biography of the "broke billionaire," he was inspired by an essay. The writer explained, "He read and was very impressed by Andrew Carnegie's famous essay Wealth, which says such things as 'to die rich is to die disgraced.'" If only more billionaires took Carnegie's advice.



The philanthropist was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, during the Great Depression, in 1931. After working in the luxury goods market, he went on to establish the Atlantic Philanthropies in 1982. The organization was founded with the primary objective of distributing his fortune to good causes and projects that he continues to support across the world. His money is donated to four main interest areas, which include health, education, reconciliation, and human rights. In fact, he even kept his charity a secret for the first 15 years. That is what earned him the moniker "James Bond of philanthropy." He emerged at last from anonymity in 1997.



One of the causes he has supported is Queens University Belfast (QUB), one of his largest beneficiaries, receiving a total of $132 million between the years 1993 to 2015. As per Nathalie Trott from QUB, the donations Feeney made "changed the lives" of students and provided the university with "state of the art facilities." She said, "The doors of the Atlantic Philanthropies may have closed in Belfast, but Chuck Feeney's legacy will live on for generations." The billionaire also donated to the Integrated Education Fund, a group that promotes reconciliation and peacebuilding. Through his organization, he contributed $8 million.



Now, Feeney lives in a two-bedroom apartment in San Francisco with his wife Helga, having traveled around the world extensively to examine other projects he would like to donate to. He has left his five children money through their mother, his first wife. The billionaire is, O'Clery explained, "very happy" with everything his philanthropic mission has achieved in the last four decades. Christopher Oechsli, the sitting president of the Atlantic Philanthropies, said it was "an honor" to oversee so many charitable initiatives. "It's heartening to see the progress made and the way groups Atlantic supported continue to drive change in these challenging times," he stated. "That's the legacy."


More Stories on Scoop