Billionaire’s dilemma

PARIS — Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have shut the door on pomp and pageantry of billionaires. Yachts, private planes and big acreage houses in the choicest of locations were a billionaire's definition of high life so far.

Not any more though. The new definition demands how much of one's money is available for humanity at large. Whatever Microsoft did in the last twenty five so years of its existence in terms of monopolistic business practices, antitrust violations and unfair or unlawful business practices have all been washed away with a huge donation of most of his Microsoft stock to Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, founded in 2000.

Warren Buffett recently topped another $32 billon and added a new shine to the huge coffers. In an interview with Fortune magazine, Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett announced he will give nearly $31 billion — most of his wealth — to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The value of Mr. Buffett's gift of 10 million shares is currently worth about $30.7 billion, based on Friday's market closing price of Berkshire Hathaway stock. Mr. Buffett will also contribute shares to four family nonprofit organizations. In all, he will donate about 85% of his Berkshire Hathaway stock to charity.

Mr. Gates, a member of Berkshire Hathaway's board, released a statement thanking Mr. Buffett for his generosity. “We are awed by our friend Warren Buffett's decision to use his fortune to address the world's most challenging inequities, and we are humbled that he has chosen to direct a large portion of it to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,” said Mr. Gates in a news release from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “The impact of Warren's generosity will not be fully understood for decades. As we move forward with the work, we do so with a profound sense of responsibility. Working with Warren and with our partners around the world, we have a tremendous opportunity to make a positive difference in people's lives.”

According to the Fortune article, Mr. Buffett's decision to start giving his fortune to charity while he is still alive was driven by the death of his wife, Susan, in 2004. Buffett says that she “would really have stepped on the gas,” for charitable giving.

Laxmi Mittal and Abramovich are left with a steep wall to climb. So far it was amassing wealth that made news; with Buffett and Gates's philanthropy, it is giving that is going to make new waves of sorts. Roman Arkadievich Abramovich, listed by Forbes Magazine as the richest Russian, 2nd richest person in Britain and the 11th richest person in the world with an estimated fortune of $18.2 billion, he is most famous outside of Russia as the owner of Chelsea F.C., an English Premiership football club. Abramovich is also known as a fan of Formula One and is often seen in the paddock at races; he owns a private Boeing 767-300 (registration P4-MES) known as “The Bandit” due to its paint scheme, as well as several Eurocopter helicopters based on his superyachts, Le Grand Bleu, Extasea and Pelorusin. He recently purchased the cherished car registration “VIP1” for £285,000.

Notoriously renowned for the 20-page invitation cased in silver for his daughter's wedding and the Rs 200 crore celebration near Paris in Palace Versailles, after five months of playing hardball in European boardrooms and chancelleries, a relaxed and expansive Lakshmi Mittal won over the Luxembourg European steel champion Arcelor's shareholders who voted by an overwhelming majority to reject the proposed merger with Russian oligarch, Alexei Mordashov's Severstal.

There are two kinds of billionaires now : the unassuming and modest who talk more about philanthropies and then the Roman Abramovich and Mittal kind. The Mittals and Abramovichs would now have to learn a new trade on the ropes summarized by Andrew Carnegie's at best, “Anybody who dies rich, dies disgraced.”

Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, the richest of the rich, symbolize this ethic — they are busy giving away most of their fortune while they are still alive. This is the most intricate of acts and most splendid, men typically in no way leave their holdings; the way Gates and Buffett washed their hands off theirs, signals an end to an epoch of charges of corporate greed and manipulation. Antitrust and illegal practices of Microsoft are now a distant past. As far as Microsoft becomes big to be a tool of help to the poor at large, no crime of monopoly and antitrust will ever stick. Rather, being a billionaire now is complex business; it is how much one gives away that matters and no more what one has.

Thanks Mr. Gates and Mr. Buffett for rewriting the ethics of billionaire conduct.

The result :

“I admire the efforts by Buffett and Gates to help those in need a lot,” Chan said. “Like Buffett and Gates, I want to help people, but I don't have as much money as they do.”

Jackie Chan announced Wednesday he has bequeathed half of his fortune to charity, saying he looks up to philanthropists like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. Chan disclosed the terms of his will when asked about tycoon Warren Buffett's recent $37-billion US donation at a news conference on a tiger conservation campaign.

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