Buffett Says Airbnb Founders to Top Him in Championing Charity

  • ‘Every one of them is worth about 10 of me,’ Buffett says
  • Billionaire says philanthropy culture going in right direction

Warren Buffett

Photographer: Scott Eells/Bloomberg

Warren Buffett, the 86-year-old billionaire who committed most of his wealth to charity, said he expects younger entrepreneurs, such as the co-founders of Airbnb Inc., to be better messengers than him about the benefits of donating a fortune.

“Every one of them is worth about 10 of me,” the Berkshire Hathaway Inc. chairman said Tuesday in remarks broadcast by video to the Concordia Summit, a gathering of business, government and non-profit leaders that encourages partnerships to address the world’s most pressing challenges. “Because you’re going to have young people, particularly in this day and age, that get wealthy very early, and they’re going to look to the people that are their heroes.”

More than 150 individuals and families have signed The Giving Pledge, an initiative that Buffett started with Bill and Melinda Gates in 2010 to encourage billionaires to donate the majority of their wealth.  Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk, co-founders of home-sharing company Airbnb, signed on this year. Billionaires who take the pledge are asked to post messages, in hopes that their words will motivate others.

Chesky drew inspiration from an older generation in making his pledge. One of his interests, he wrote, will be to show kids that their potential should not be bounded. 

Disney’s Inspiration

“Walt Disney once said, ‘If you can dream it, you can do it,’” Chesky wrote. “I would like to help them dream.”

By highlighting the opportunity available to young philanthropists, both to support worthwhile causes and to inspire others, Buffett is building on remarks by Bill Gates. The Microsoft Corp. co-founder said in India in 2011 that people depend on self-made millionaires and billionaires to donate money before passing their wealth on to less-generous heirs.

Buffett acknowledged Tuesday that some billionaires around the world are reluctant to make the pledge. He said that in China there was concern that supporting public education or health initiatives could be seen as sending a message of disapproval with the government’s efforts. Buffett is pleased by changing attitudes, however, and cited an example of someone encouraging wealthy parents to donate most of their fortune. He didn’t identify the family.

“Cultures change slowly but I think you will see a world, not just the U.S., but I think you will see a world that 20, 30, 50 years from now where people think about philanthropy in a big scale, at an earlier age,” he said. “We’re going in the right direction.”

The majority of Buffett’s Berkshire stock will go to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation over time. That organization has donated more than $36 billion, including for projects that expand access to immunizations in developing countries and provide financial services to poor communities.

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