Chuck Feeney: The billionaire who gave it all away

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Becoming a billionaire would be, for most of us, the very apex of achievement – and a very unrealistic dream come true.

Chuck Feeney lived that dream but he wasn’t content simply with becoming a billionaire – no, he set himself a further a goal.

To give away his entire multi-billion dollar fortune while he was still living.

The 89-year-old American businessman has now achieved that, donating almost $9bn (£7bn) worldwide.

And through his private foundation the Atlantic Philanthropies, Mr Feeney, born to Irish-American parents, gave $570m (£447m) to causes in Northern Ireland over four decades.

Who is Chuck Feeney?

Charles F Feeney was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey in 1931, during the Great Depression.

His mother worked as a hospital nurse and his father was an insurance underwriter.

The philanthropist traces his family history back to County Fermanagh, where his grandmother was brought up close to the village of Kinawley.

The entrepreneur made his money selling luxury duty free goods to travellers across the world, but he rejected the trappings of wealth himself.

For the first 15 years of his philanthropic mission, Mr Feeney donated money in secret leading to him being dubbed the James Bond of philanthropy, only emerging from anonymity in 1997.

He now lives in a two-bedroom apartment in San Francisco with his wife Helga, having travelled extensively to examine projects to donate to.

Christopher Oechsli, president of the Atlantic Philanthropies, said it was “an honour” to support so many projects in Northern Ireland since first beginning its operations here in 1991.

“It’s heartening to see the progress made and the way groups Atlantic supported continue to drive change in these challenging times,” he said.

“That’s the legacy.”

According to biographer Conor O’Clery, Chuck Feeney is “very happy” that he has now completed his almost 40-year mission and celebrated the milestone with wife Helga.

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By Justgivemepositivenews Team