Richest Families Vow to Give Back Most of Wealth

Warren Buffett, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, testifies before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, Wednesday, June 2, 2010, in New York.
AP
Forty wealthy families and individuals have joined Microsoft Corp. co-founder 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, the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. released the first list Wednesday of people who have signed what he and Gates call the "giving pledge".

"We've really just started, but already we've had a terrific response," Buffett said. "At its core, the Giving Pledge is about asking wealthy families to have important conversations about their wealth and how it will be used. We're delighted that so many people are doing just that - and that so many have decided to not only take this pledge but also to commit to sums far greater than the 50 percent minimum level."

Families and individuals who make the pledge post public declarations on the group's website. They are not bound to direct their wealth to any particular cause - or legally obligated to follow through at all.

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

In addition to making a donation commitment, Gates and Buffett are asking billionaires to pledge to give wisely and learn from their peers. And although the organization is aimed at the wealthiest Americans, Buffett and Gates say they hope it will inspire Americans of all background and means to donate what they can.

The pledge list includes well-known figures such as Michael Bloomberg, Ted Turner, T. Boone Pickens, Peter G. Peterson, Larry Ellison, and Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg, as well as names associated with multiple generations of philanthropy and lesser known individuals.