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More billionaires agree to give away wealth

Last updated on: December 10, 2010 17:06 IST

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As many as 17 of the wealthiest people in America, including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, have joined the league of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates in pledging to give away a majority of their fortune for charitable causes.

"Seventeen more of America's wealthiest families have committed to returning the majority of their wealth to charitable causes by taking the Giving Pledge," the charitable organisation said in a statement.

Zuckerberg, one of the world's youngest billionaires with an estimated wealth of over $6 billion, said, "With a generation of younger folks who have thrived on the success of their companies, there is a big opportunity for many of us to give back earlier in our lifetime and see the impact of our philanthropic efforts."

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Image: Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Photographs: Reuters
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The announcement of a second group of pledgers follows the news in August of 40 families having joined The Giving Pledge, a long-term charitable project launched by billionaire investor Warren Buffett and Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda.

The project, which was launched in June, now includes 57 families from across the United States.

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Image: Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Warren Buffett (R) poses with Bill and Melinda Gates (C).
Photographs: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters
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In addition to Zuckerberg, the new group of billionaires taking the pledge includes AOL co-founder Steve Case, financier Carl Icahn among others.

"I am delighted to welcome these 17 families into the Giving Pledge community," said Warren Buffett, pledge co-founder and chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.

The Giving Pledge is an effort to help address society's most pressing problems by inviting the wealthiest American families and individuals to commit to giving more than half of their wealth to philanthropy or charitable causes.

Besides, both Buffett and the Gates have begun conversations with billionaires from other countries to learn about their philanthropy efforts and what has worked in their countries.

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Image: AOL co-founder Steve Case.
Photographs: Reuters
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While pledging his billions, financier Carl Icahn wrote, "I began my career on Wall Street nearly 50 years ago.

From a modest upbringing in Queens, New York, I have been fortunate enough to accumulate great wealth.

And with that wealth comes responsibility - those who have benefitted the most from our economic system have a responsibility to give back to society in a meaningful way.

That is why I made a commitment over 20 years ago that substantially all of my assets would be used to fund a charitable foundation."

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Image: Carl Icahn.
Photographs: Chip East/Reuters
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"Everyone is dealt a group of cards at birth. With them come possibilities and responsibilities.

What one does with them is up to each one of us; and the sum of those choices, constitute our lives.

I have been blessed with the chance to build the Nicolas Berggruen Charitable Trust.

My dedication to making the Trust a success will be similarly applied to its related non-profit activities," wrote Nicolas Berggruen founder and president of Berggruen Holdings.

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Image: Nicolas Berggruen (C).
Photographs: Reuters
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Oracle CEO Larry Ellison wrote: "Many years ago, I put virtually all of my assets into a trust with the intent of giving away at least 95% of my wealth to charitable causes.

"I have already given hundreds of millions of dollars to medical research and education, and I will give billions more over time.

"Until now, I have done this giving quietly - because I have long believed that charitable giving is a personal and private matter.

"So why am I going public now?

"Warren Buffett personally asked me to write this letter because he said I would be 'setting an example' and 'influencing others' to give.

I hope he's right."

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Image: Oracle CEO Larry Ellison talks during his keynote address.
Photographs: Robert Galbraith/Reuters
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"One of the senior managers at my company, Bloomberg LP, recently told me that part of his new hires recruiting pitch is to ask, "What other company can you work for where the owner gives nearly all the profits to charity?"

Nothing has ever made me prouder of my company than that one story.

In the 1990s, a generous individual planned to leave Johns Hopkins University, my alma mater, $50 million upon his death.

But I asked him: Why wait? Why deny financial aid to this generation? Why deny a possible cure for a disease to this generation? That convinced him - and he gave the money right then and there.

As I wrote in my autobiography around that same time, the reality of great wealth is that you can't spend it and you can't take it with you, " wrote New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg.

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Image: Michael Bloomberg.
Photographs: Reuters
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"When I was in high school, I felt like I was in a vacuum, biding time.

"I was curious, but bored.

"It was not an atmosphere conducive to learning. I was fortunate that I found my path and my language.

"It's scary to think of our education system as little better than an assembly line with producing diplomas as its only goal.

"Once I had the means to effect change in this arena, it became my passion to do so - to promote active, life-long learning.

"Ultimately, that is why I created Edutopia and the George Lucas Educational Foundation," wrote George Lucas, American film producer, screenwriter, director and founder/chairman of Lucasfilm Ltd.


Image: George Lucas.
Photographs: Reuters
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