Published On: Mon, Aug 25th, 2014

Michael Bloomberg Plans to Give Away His Entire $35 Billion Fortune

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Bill Gates And Mayor Bloomberg Make Announcement In NYC

Michael R. Bloomberg, 72, has vowed to give away his entire $32.8 billion fortune before he dies, according to the NY Times. He hopes to invest this staggering amount of hard earned money in sharply reducing the high smoking rates of the people of Turkey and Indonesia, bring down obesity rates in Mexico, reduce traffic in Rio de Janeiro, improve road safety in India and Kenya, prevent mothers’ deaths at childbirth in Tanzania, and help cities around the world to become more environmentally friendly and to deliver services more efficiently.

OK, so maybe $32.8 billion is not enough. Which is why the former mayor of NY City in 2006 started Bloomberg Philanthropies, which today runs programs in 95 countries.

That’s, basically, everywhere. Or everywhere where human misery is kind of the way things are.

Bloomberg, whom Forbes lists as the sixteenth richest man in the world, says he focuses his giving in countries where he finds broad national support for his program. Which was not the case in NY City, when, as mayor, he came up with the crazy sounding idea of barring smoking in public spaces, including—imagine that—bars and restaurants. He faced fierce resistance from both patrons and owners of these establishments, but enough of the rest of us supported the idea of not having to breathe in poisonous nicotine clouds, and the smokers eventually surrendered.

Last year, Bloomberg gave away $452 million, his highest annual figure to date. “What else am I going to do with it,” he said. He jokes that he wants to give away everything, to the point where he would “bounce the check to the undertaker.”

So, undertakers, for future reference – cash up front only.

Mr Bloomberg has often offered up this bromide, but it actually oversimplifies what experts say may be the hardest part of accumulating extreme wealth: how to give it all away. In fact, he has been giving at a slower pace than some other wealthy philanthropists.

Bloomberg Philanthropies is planning to new antismoking programs in 15 countries, including Indonesia, Russia, China and India, basically by giving away armfuls of cash to antismoking activists in each locale. So far, they’ve pledged $600 million.

Last year, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has given away $3.6 billion, compared with Bloomberg’s $3.3 billion. But the Gates’ overhead is enormous: more than 1,200 people are dispensing those funds, compared with only thirty (30) doing the same for Bloomberg.

Bloomberg told the NY Times he was in no hurry to hire more staff members. He’s nothing if not efficient. He’s proud of the fact that his antismoking campaign in Turkey has yielded stunning results with an investment of only $7 million. According to a World Health Organisation report published last year, the overall smoking rate in Turkey decreased to 27 per cent in 2012 from 32 per cent in 2008, with the male rate dropping to 41 per cent from 48 per cent.

He says he prefers to offer matching grants, and supporting causes that are already being championed by other foundations (he had no problem lending a boost to the Gates Foundation’s campaign to eradicate polio).

Charity, like any business, delivers best results with a low overhead.

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