The Billionaire Who Wasn't: How Chuck Feeney Secretly Made and Gave Away a Fortune by Conor O'Clery
Chuck Feeney was born in New Jersey to an Irish-American family struggling to make their way in the fiercest years of the Depression. In 1997 he called Judith Miller of the "New York Times" to correct a widely reported fact. He was not, as Forbes and others alleged, one of the 400 richest Americans. He was worth a relatively modest $2 million. He had been a billionaire however, but since 1984 he'd been quietly giving his money away, without fanfare or recognition. Now, in 1997, he was determined to wrap up his philanthropic efforts before he died. But that meant having to get rid of $3.5 billion, because the fund that he had endowed was one of the richest and most secretive of all the great philanthropic trusts: Chuck Feeney was the money and brains behind the Atlantic Foundation.This authorized but not approved biography of one of the world's richest and most secretive donors tells the story of how Chuck Feeney made his millions - buying and selling in post second world war Europe and Asia - and how he spent them, giving to causes around the world as various as hospitals in Vietnam and, controversially, Sinn Fein. More than a story of an extraordinarily gifted and fortunate entrepreneur, it's the tale of what happens to a man and his family when confronted with wealth beyond imagining, and how Feeney could come to make the decision to get rid of almost all of it. It isn't easy to give away $3.5 billion in good conscience. That much money requires a lot of due diligence; and money has the habit of attracting money. As fast as Chuck Feeney tried to deplete the foundation he found its funds were growing through its investments.At the time of writing the Atlantic Foundation remains one of the wealthiest and most secretive, and Chuck Feeney is as busy today as he was a decade ago trying to give the money away.