Ice Bucket Challenge: Will Buffett, Gates Take It?

Aug. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg, Microsoft Corp. CEO Satya Nadella, T-Mobile US Inc. CEO John Legere and Martha Stewart participate in the Ice Bucket Challenge, getting ice-cold water dumped over them to raise awareness for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Participants film the dousing on social media and call out someone else to accept the challenge within 24 hours or donate to an ALS organization. (Video courtesy of Facebook/Microsoft/T-Mobile US/Martha Stewart/YouTube. Source: Bloomberg)

An Ice Bucket Challenge has been issued to Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos: Will they take it?

Business leaders from Mark Zuckerberg to Microsoft Corp. (MSFT)’s Satya Nadella have joined the social-media craze and dumped a bucket of ice-cold water over themselves to help increase awareness about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Even Martha Stewart got her hair wet.

“Oh man, oh my god that is cold!” Nadella said before challenging Bezos and Google Inc.’s Larry Page.

The Ice Bucket Challenge was started a few weeks ago by the family of 29-year-old Pete Frates, a former Division I baseball player who was diagnosed with ALS two years ago. The premise is simple: pour ice water on your head, post the video on social media and call out someone else to accept the challenge within 24 hours or donate to an ALS organization.

It went viral, raising $7.6 million in donations to the ALS Association since July 29.

“This is a great opportunity for all of us to contribute to not only raising the awareness of ALS but to the research that can find cures,” Nadella said, just before being doused with buckets of freezing water from Microsoft employees. Nadella accepted the challenge from Steve Gleason, a former NFL player who has the disease.

Park rangers who provide security at the Massachusetts State House during the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge by Senator Linda Dorcena Forry on Aug. 7, 2014 in Boston. Photograpehr: David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images Close

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Park rangers who provide security at the Massachusetts State House during the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge by Senator Linda Dorcena Forry on Aug. 7, 2014 in Boston. Photograpehr: David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Meanwhile Microsoft co-founder Gates got roped in by Facebook Inc. (FB)’s Zuckerberg, who accepted the challenge from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie yesterday.

‘Do This’

“That was really cold,” Zuckerberg said. Besides Gates, he challenged his chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, and Netflix Inc. CEO Reed Hastings, asking them to “do this within the next 24 hours or donate $100.”

Martha Stewart, the lifestyle businesswoman, took the challenge -- in a hair salon -- pouring a white bucket of ice over her head.

“I’m about to get my hair done, so what the heck, it doesn’t matter if I pour a bucket of ice over my head,” she said. Stewart asked “three domestic goddesses” to take up the challenge: Gwyneth Paltrow, Blake Lively and Ellen DeGeneres.

Early adopters of the challenge were members of Frates’s Boston College baseball team and his family, who posted videos on Facebook and Twitter -- whose CEO Dick Costolo also dunked. The links quickly pulled in other sports teams and players, including Gregory Campbell of the Boston Bruins and Canadian hockey player Paul Bissonnette, who stood on a mountaintop overlooking a lake in what appears to be his underwear, and was doused with glacier water unleashed from a helicopter.

‘Public Persona’

Chief executives have now jumped in, looping in billionaires and fellow business leaders.

“CEOs have a very public persona among their employees, clients and customers,” said Thales Teixeira, an assistant professor of business administration at Harvard Business School. “By and large most CEOs would like to be seen as good people that are aware of the current economic and social issues. If they send it to many of their employees, it indirectly gives them the hint that ‘I am a person like everyone else, I am human and I care.’”

ALS, a neurodegenerative disease that affects an estimated 30,000 people in the U.S., attacks nerve cells that control voluntary muscles, leading to paralyzation and the eventual loss of capacity to speak and breathe. No cure has been found and only one drug has been approved: It only modestly extends survival of the disease by about three months, according to the ALS Association.

‘Viral Initiative’

“We have never seen anything like this in the history of the disease,” said Barbara Newhouse, president and CEO of the ALS Association in a press release yesterday. “We couldn’t be more thrilled with the level of compassion, generosity and sense of humor that people are exhibiting as they take part in this impactful viral initiative.”

Spencer Rascoff, the chief executive of real estate website Zillow Inc., lost a friend in 2000 to what he called “an awful, unmerciful disease,” watching him passing away in a few months.

“The Ice Bucket Challenge is a great example of social media doing good,” Rascoff said in an interview. “So often social media is used for snark and to spread ill will that when a cause like raising awareness and money for ALS comes along, it’s great to be able to participate.”

CNBC journalist Carl Quintanilla has nominated Bezos, Buffett and John Legere, the CEO of T-Mobile USA Inc. Legere, a self-styled rebel who routinely wears a hot-pink T-shirt to promote his wireless carrier’s brand, got doused by six buckets of water by employees wearing pink T-shirts. He called on his rivals: Lowell McAdam at Verizon Communications Inc., Randall Stephenson at AT&T Inc., and Marcelo Claure, the new head of Sprint Corp.

And the list goes on. No word yet as to whether Buffett will get wet.

To contact the reporter on this story: Caelainn Barr in New York at cbarr15@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Ed Dufner at edufner@bloomberg.net Cecile Daur, Molly Schuetz, John Lear

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