This year, 89-year-old billionaire Charles “Chuck” Feeney, co-founder of the Duty Free Shoppers (DFS), has successfully given away all $8 billion of his earnings. Now left with $2 million, the Irish-American businessman lives in a rented apartment in California.
Since 1984, Feeney has gradually donated his fortune to charities, foundations, and universities across the world, and initially kept his identity a secret to the public. Though his donations were revealed in 1997 due to a legal dispute, the philanthropist continued his donations through the Atlantic Philanthropies (AP) foundation. The AP aided left-leaning public organizations around the world until its shutdown on September 14 this year. It had 10 offices worldwide, and at its creation, was given the strict deadline of 2020 to reach its goal. Among the foundation’s most notable contributions include $381.5 million to health, education, and anti-smoking campaigns in Vietnam, over $1 billion to higher education, research, LGBTQ+ rights, and unemployment grants in Ireland, as well as over $422 million in funds for democracy and human rights in South Africa. Since its creation, the AP has also donated roughly $1 billion to Cornell University, and it was announced on December 10 this year that the university’s main road will be renamed “Feeney Way” in honor of the billionaire. In total, the foundation’s three largest investment focuses across the world were $3.7 billion for education and research, $871 million for human rights, and $736 million for the elderly. Feeney has admitted that not all of the group’s plans have ended with success, but is still proud of his work overall. In the AP’s final news update, the organization’s CEO wrote, “We are who we are because of others. On behalf of Chuck Feeney and the team at Atlantic Philanthropies, thank you for your work and support and for accompanying us on this journey.”
Feeney’s charitable mindset was channeled through his “Giving While Living” approach, the idea that, “you can experience the immense satisfaction of not only making a difference, but seeing it happen now.” He is known for his frugality in day to day life, flying in coach and wearing a $10 watch. Feeney has been commended by fellow philanthropists Bill Gates and Warren Buffett for his generosity, with Buffett being quoted as saying, “He should be everybody’s hero.” Born into a modest life in New Jersey, Feeney graduated from Cornell University, and later kickstarted his successful career in 1960. He recently celebrated the end of his 40-year quest with his wife Helga, and encouraged fellow philanthropists to act with haste, rather than waiting until death to donate. According to Forbes, Feeney may soon be the subject of a biopic celebrating his life, and jokingly stated that his choice of who to play him is “probably Danny Devito.”