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Gates, Buffett get 40 pledges

Donor families promise to give half their wealth

Associated Press / August 5, 2010

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SEATTLE — Forty wealthy families and individuals have joined Microsoft Corp. cofounder Bill Gates and billionaire investor Warren Buffett in a pledge to give at least half their wealth to charity.

Six weeks after launching a campaign to get other billionaires to donate most of their fortunes, Buffett, the chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., released the first list yesterday of people who have signed what he and Gates call the “giving pledge.’’

In 2006, when he was worth about $44 billion, Buffett decided to give 99 percent of his fortune to charity. After five years of investment while making annual gifts to five foundations, Buffett’s fortune totals nearly $46 billion.

Buffett said that he, Bill and Melinda Gates, and a few others have made 70 to 80 calls to some of the nation’s wealthiest individuals. The people who agreed to the pledge are from 13 states, with the most participants in California and New York.

Among those who have not signed the pledge, some prefer to keep their philanthropy anonymous, some were not available to talk, and others were not interested, Buffett said.

Many on the list will be asked to call others, and small dinners will be held across the country to talk about the campaign.

Buffett said he and Bill Gates also will meet with groups of wealthy people in China and India within the next six months to talk about philanthropy. But they have no plans to lead a global campaign, Buffett said.

Gates and Buffett estimate their efforts could generate $600 billion in charitable giving. In 2009, American philanthropies received a total of about $300 billion in donations, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

In addition to making a commitment to donate, Gates and Buffett are asking billionaires to pledge to give wisely and to learn from their peers.

The group has no plans for combined giving, and none of the philanthropists will be told how or when to give, they said.

“Everybody has their own interests,’’ said Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York, who participated in the teleconference as a signer of the giving pledge. “That’s what’s wonderful about private philanthropy.’’

Bloomberg, who has a fortune estimated by Forbes magazine at $18 billion, said he has changed his personal philosophy over the years from wanting to be more private about his giving to trying to play a leadership role.

Others who have signed the pledge include filmmaker George Lucas, media mogul Ted Turner, and Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen.

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