Giving it away

A billionaire has just finished giving away his fortune. It has taken him thirty-eight years to funnel seven or eight billion dollars through charities and foundations. Just thinking about the paperwork that must have been involved inflames my carpel tunnels.

It was a gritted-teeth attempt at a good-news story in a swirling hell-stew of political hysteria, social breakdown and distanced Strictly. At first I thought ‘what took you so long?’, but it must be quite a difficult thing to do without falling foul of hundreds of international laws, laying yourself open to lawsuits, corruption charges, scams and graft. And of course even easier to end up visiting disaster on the people you are trying to help: benefit sanctions, tax bills, robbery with violence.

But committed to the job, unable to understand why anyone would want to sit on a pile of gold and watch the world burn, he hired a team, set up a foundation, and funded healthcare, education and social programmes across the world, at first anonymously, later outed by a legal dispute. Although some kind of charity foundation legacy after you’re dead is pretty standard for the wealthy, the idea of shedding wealth while alive was treated by most as massively eccentric. But he encouraged his fellow billionaires to give it a try, saying ‘it’s a lot more fun to give while you live than give while you’re dead.’

So now this work, which has taken much much longer that making the money in the first place, is done, and he can at last retire. He’s 83.