- On a summer afternoon, Chuck Feeney, 81, stepped off a train on his journey back and hobbled toward the turnstiles on sore knees. No commuter even glanced twice at the short one hand holding a plastic bag of newspapers, the other grasping an iron fence for support. The man who has done more for Ireland than anyone else slowly limped out of the station completely unnoticed. And that's just how Feeney likes it.
- Chuck Feeney is the James Bond of philanthropy. Over the last 30 years he's crisscrossed the globe conducting a clandestine operation to give away a $7.5 billion fortune derived from his empire of duty-free shops.
- His foundation, the Atlantic Philanthropies, has funneled $6.2 billion into education, science, health care, aging and civil rights in the U.S., Australia, Vietnam, Bermuda, South Africa and Ireland. Few living people have given away more, and no one at his wealth level has ever given their fortune away so completely during their lifetime. The remaining $1.3 billion will be spent by 2016, and the foundation will be shuttered in 2020. While the business world's titans obsess over piling up as many riches as possible, Feeney is working double time to die broke.
- A business dispute in 1997 forced disclosure of Mr. Feeney's funding for Atlantic Philanthropies
- Feeney embarked on this mission in 1984, when he secretely transferred his entire 38.75% ownership stake in Duty Free Shoppers (DFS) to what became the Atlantic Philanthropies. "I concluded that if you hung on to a piece of the action for yourself you'd always be worrying about that piece," says Feeney, who estimates his current net worth at $2 million.
- People used to ask me how I got my jollies, and I guess I'm happy when what I'm doing is helping people and unhappy when what I'm doing isn't helping people. I see little reason to delay giving when so much good can be achieved through supporting worthwhile causes today.
- After graduation in 1956 and later got involved in the business of selling tax-free booze to sailors. By 1964 their Duty Free Shoppers had 200 employees in 27 countries. Japanese economic boom transformed it into one of the most profitable retailers in history. He remained obsessively secretive and low key, but the money was now too big to ignore.
- In 1988 The Forbes 400 issue exposed the success of DFS and the vast wealth of its four owners. It identified Feeney as the 31st-richest person in America, worth an estimated $1.3 billion. His secret was out, but there were two mistakes: First, the fortune was worth substantially more. And second, it no longer belonged to Feeney. Only a close inner circle knew of the latter that Feeney himself was worth at most a few million dollars and didn't even own a car.
- Feeney is frugal. On the spending side he obsesses over value, and on the cost side, he loathes waste. He wears a rubber Casio watch because it keeps time like a Rolex. He flew millions of miles in coach because first class didn't get him to his destination any faster. Feeney rarely owned a car because they were difficult to park in cities. Feeney lives out of three foundation-owned apartments in Dublin, Brisbane and San Francisco, and crashes in his daughter's apartment while in New York.
- He has aggressively tried to avoid taxes at every stage, despite gaining no personal advantage in his later years. Eventually, less taxes meant that he could give away more.
- The lesson he wants to teach: Don't wait to give your money away when you're old or, even worse, dead. Instead, make substantial donations while you still have the energy, connections and influence to make waves.
- People who have money have an obligation and to use it wisely. That's why that man who obsessively guarded his privacy for decades has participated in the biography, publicly accepted an honorary doctorate.
Chuck has set an example...he is my hero and Bill Gates’ hero.
He should be everybody’s hero. - Warren Buffett
Chuck Feeney is a remarkable role model and
the ultimate example of giving while living. - Bill Gates
Timeline of Atlantic Philanthropies giving away $7.5 billion.
While it is ridiculous to compare great men, the 'man of the millennium' Paalam Kalyanasundaram from Tuticorin acclaimed as "an epitome of selfless service, is a fine example of simple living and high thinking" stands taller. He started helping people at very young age with what ever little he has, sacrificed his entire life for social service without marrying, without any publicity, without owning anything and leading simple & frugal life.