NEW YORK—Sorting the “saints” from the “sinners” has singled out 40 billionaire families and individuals who have pledged half their vast wealth to charity.
The Giving Pledge, a brainchild of Microsoft mogul Bill Gates and investment guru Warren Buffett, flushed out the billionaires after working their way through Fortune magazine’s list of 400 US billionaires with estimated total net worth of $1.2 trillion.
From the first 70 or 80 called, half are set to sign, said the chief executive of investment firm Berkshire Hathaway. “It was a very soft sell, but 40 signed up. We've made a terrific start," he told reporters in a conference call, as reported by Seven News television.
Almost all on the list are self-made, including Bloomberg, a media entrepreneur and major philanthropist, who has a fortune estimated by Forbes at $18 billion.
He said, without leaving his children destitute, he had more money than he would ever need.
"You can't spend it if you have over a certain amount," he explained.
According to Forbes Magazine, if half of the wealth of the United States' 400 richest were secured, a total of more than $600 billion would be donated.
Gates alone is the second richest man in the world, with some $53 billion, placing him behind Mexican telecoms tycoon Carlos Slim, with $53.5 billion.
Buffett is the second richest American, estimated by Forbes at $47 billion.
He would not say who had refused. "I won't name any specific names," he said, adding that he expected the project to grow over the next year.
"You know, we don't give up on them. Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future."
The Giving Pledge, announced six weeks ago, includes CNN founder Ted Turner, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison and Hollywood director George Lucas, as well as Buffett and Gates.