Watch out Paris - the rich are giving their cash away

Aug 5, 2010
Jack Bremer

Pushed by Gates and Buffett, US billionaires pledge half their fortunes to charity

Bad news for the jet-setting, high-spending socialite Paris Hilton. Her grand-daddy just agreed to give away half his fortune to charity in an unprecedented mass-philanthropic gesture organised by two of America's - and the world's - richest men, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.

Hotel heir Barron Hilton, whose son Richard Howard Hilton is Paris's father, is one of the leading figures to sign up to the Gates-Buffett bonanza. Others include New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, media mogul Ted Turner, Star Wars director George Lucas and the 'old money' banker David Rockefeller.

The fortunes involved range from Bill and Melinda Gates's $53bn to the mere $1bn-plus of TV tycoon Barry Diller and his fashion designer wife, Diane von Furstenberg.

The "giving pledge" they have made is not legally binding. But it is a "statement of principle". Gates and Buffett hope each of them will stick to the plan to give away at least half their fortunes in an effort to encourage other rich American families to give too.

However, there are 403 billionaires in the Unites States according to Forbes magazine - and by no means all of them have signed up to the plan.

Among those notable by their absence are the Waltons, the family behind the world's biggest retailer, Walmart. Four of America's top 10 wealthiest people belong to the Walton dynasty - yet none of them has climbed aboard. Neither have Sergei Brin and Larry Page, the founders of Google, whose combined fortune is about $30bn.

"I'll be more convinced that this is truly transforming philanthropy when I see names on the list who aren't the usual suspects," said Stacy Palmer, editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

For the moment though, the organisers are banking on the normal suspects - men like financier T Boone Pickens, who heads BP Capital Management. "I've long stated that I enjoy making money, and I enjoy giving it away," Pickens said in signing up to the giving pledge. "I'm not a big fan of inherited wealth. It generally does more harm than good."

Try explaining that to Paris.

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