Broad, Bloomberg Back Buffett Call for Charitable Donations

Billionaire Eli Broad
Eli Broad, the billionaire co-founder of homebuilder KB Home, in an interview in New York. Photographer: Jin Lee/Bloomberg

Eli Broad and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg backed an initiative started by fellow billionaires Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates for rich Americans to give at least half of their wealth to charity.

Broad, former chairman of insurer SunAmerica Inc. and founder of homebuilder KB Home, joined his wife, Edythe, yesterday in pledging to give 75 percent of their wealth to philanthropic causes. Buffett, the world’s third-richest person and chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., said he is pressing “hundreds of rich Americans” to make similar pledges.

“We agree with Andrew Carnegie’s wisdom that ‘the man who dies rich, dies disgraced,’” Eli and Edythe Broad said in a statement. “Philanthropy is unbelievably rewarding, and we hope others will also realize the benefits of being active, engaged philanthropists.”

Buffett, 79, and the Gateses have been assembling billionaires at private meetings to drum up support for their challenge, which they call “The Giving Pledge.” They got the idea during three dinners with other philanthropists, he told Charlie Rose in an interview.

“I asked each either couple or individual to sort of give a story of the evolution of their own philanthropic thinking,” he said, according to a transcript. “It was incredible because it was probably two hours to get around that table” as people got excited about their ideas and those of others, he said.

‘Check to the Undertaker’

Buffett has promised to donate more than 99 percent of his wealth. The greatest part of his fortune, estimated in March at $47 billion by Forbes Magazine, is being provided in annual installments to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Bill Gates, 54, the co-founder of Microsoft Corp., is the world’s second-richest person. The Gates Foundation’s goals include the reduction of poverty and disease and the improvement of U.S. education.

The pledge “is a fantastic idea,” Bloomberg said in a statement yesterday. “I am a big believer in giving it all away and have always said that the best financial planning ends with bouncing the check to the undertaker.”

The drive has attracted the interest of former Cisco Systems Inc. Chairman John Morgridge and Tashia Morgridge, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner John Doerr and Ann Doerr, and Pennsylvania philanthropist H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest and Marguerite Lenfest, said Patty Stonesifer, who has advised on the initiative.

Bloomberg, 68, founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP, has a net worth estimated by Forbes in March at $18 billion, ranking him 23rd on its list of world billionaires. Broad, 77, has a net worth estimated at $5.7 billion, ranking him 132nd on the list.

The Broad Foundations have invested more than $2 billion in education, scientific and medical research and the arts. Their largest commitment has been $600 million to establish the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, according to the statement.

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