Opinion Gates, Buffett To Approach India's Billionaires


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Bill Gates and Warren Buffett will next year approach a group of India's richest to enlist their support for and views on setting up fund-raising initiatives in India, the billionaire duo said this week, after organising a first-of-its-kind charity dinner for China's billionaires.

On Wednesday night, Mr. Gates and Mr. Buffett held a much-publicised dinner here with around 50 of China's richest business people. Mr. Gates and Mr. Buffett, the world's second and third richest people, launched their fund-raising effort in China following a similar campaign in the U.S., where they reportedly succeeded in getting around 40 billionaires to commit to donating half their wealth in a Giving Pledge. They said they were now considering organising a similar fund-raising event in India. “We may do an event in India”, Mr. Gates told reporters.

China, like India, has a fast-growing list of new billionaires, even as the country faces a growing divide between the rich and the poor, and between urban and rural areas. India seems like an easier fund-raising target for the duo, with a greater concentration of wealth among the country's richest.

According to Forbes magazine, the top 100 Indians are almost as wealthy as the top 400 richest Chinese. This week's dinner received considerable media attention in China in recent weeks, framed as the biggest effort yet to get China's famously secretive billionaires to open their wallets. Media reports said some of China's billionaires were even keeping away from the event, fearing they would be pressured to donate. But Mr. Gates and Mr. Buffett said they had found no reluctance from those who attended the event.

“We were very impressed,” Mr. Gates said, saying they had received “very generous gifts,” without specifying what they were. “The people we were with last night had ideas about things they wanted to do,” he added. “They saw the charitable sector at an early stage and were asking about what lessons there might be from the United States.”

New phenomenon

Many of China's wealthiest are generally more secretive than their Indian counterparts about their net worth, fearful of attracting attention from the government or tax authorities. “Rich lists” are few in China. Philanthropy from China's wealthiest is also a relatively new phenomenon, having been largely directed by the Communist government since the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949.

But the number of millionaires – as well as the income gap – has increased rapidly after economic reforms in 1978. “What you have is a first generation of fortune,” Mr. Buffett said.

Going by this week's dinner in China, India's richest can expect an exchange of ideas and views with the billionaire duo, but not specific requests for donations. “No one was asked in any way, indirectly or directly, to sign up to anything last night,” Mr. Buffett said. “Bill and I will not be calling anybody. What happens in China will depend on how the Chinese people feel about a project of this sort.” Among those reported to have attended the charity dinner in China were actor Jet Li, Niu Gensheng, founder of a dairy empire, and Pan Shiyi and Zhang Xin, a couple who head the SOHO China real estate business. The guest list was kept secret.



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1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
If you are wondering who Warren Buffett and Bill Gates give their money to, well..

Warren Buffett has been systematically giving away his awesome wealth. Buffett has given a fortune to Bill Gates - who really does not need any more money. However Bill Gates gives his money (and also Buffet's) to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which funds many philanthropic projects, frequently related to improving health and education worldwide.

Here is an interesting article that chronicles what Buffett and Gates, Bill and Melissa, have done in approaching America's millionaires to give more.

FORTUNE -- Just over a year ago, in May 2009, word leaked to the press that the two richest men in America, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, had organized and presided over a confidential dinner meeting of billionaires in New York City. David Rockefeller was said to have been a host, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Oprah Winfrey to have been among those attending, and philanthropy to have been the main subject.

Pushed by the press to explain, Buffett and Gates declined. But that certainly didn't dim the media's interest in reaching for descriptions of the meeting: The Chronicle of Philanthropy called it "unprecedented"; both ABC News and the Houston Chronicle went for "clandestine"; a New York magazine parody gleefully imagined George Soros to have been starstruck in the presence of Oprah. One radio broadcaster painted a dark picture: "Ladies and gentlemen, there's mischief afoot and it does not bode well for the rest of us." No, no, rebutted the former CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Patty Stonesifer, who had been at the meeting and had reluctantly emerged to combat the rumors. The event, she told the Seattle Times, was simply a group of friends and colleagues "discussing ideas" about philanthropy.

And so it was. But that discussion -- to be fully described for the first time in this article -- has the potential to dramatically change the philanthropic behavior of Americans, inducing them to step up the amounts they give. With that dinner meeting, Gates and Buffett started what can be called the biggest fundraising drive in history. They'd welcome donors of any kind. But their direct target is billionaires, whom the two men wish to see greatly raise the amounts they give to charities, of any and all kinds. That wish was not mathematically framed at the time of the New York meeting. But as two other U.S. dinners were held (though not leaked), Buffett and Gates and his wife, Melinda, set the goal: They are driving to get the super-rich, starting with the Forbes list of the 400 wealthiest Americans, to pledge -- literally pledge -- at least 50% of their net worth to charity during their lifetimes or at death.

Without a doubt, that plan could create a colossal jump in the dollars going to philanthropy, though of what size is a puzzle we'll get to. To begin with, a word about this article you are reading. It is the first public disclosure of what Buffett and Melinda and Bill Gates are trying to do. Over the past couple of months Fortune has interviewed the three principals as the project has unfolded, as well as a group of billionaires who have signed up to add their names to the Gates/Buffett campaign.

In a sense this article is also an echo of two other Fortune stories, both featuring Buffett on the cover. The first, published in 1986, was "Should you leave it all to the children?" To that query, Buffett emphatically said no. The second article, "Warren Buffett gives it away," which appeared in 2006, disclosed Buffett's intention to gradually give away his Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) fortune to five foundations, chief among them the world's largest, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (For Buffett's thinking on the disposition of his wealth, see "My philanthropic pledge.")

Since then, in four years of contributions, Buffett has given the foundation $6.4 billion, not counting the 2010 gift, to be made this summer. The foundation in turn has in that same period combined Buffett's money and its immense gifts from the Gateses to raise its level of giving to about $3 billion a year, much of it for world health. One small example: the Medicines for Malaria Venture, heavily funded by the Gates Foundation, has worked with pharmaceutical company Novartis (NVS) to develop good-tasting malaria pills and distribute them to millions of children -- the principal victims of the disease -- in 24 countries.

More on patterns of giving at this link: