Charles F. Feeney, who made a fortune as a retailer - he has a global duty-free shopping business that he started in the 1950s - and then gave almost all of it away, has passed away. He was 92.
From the New York Times obituary:
"Unlike philanthropists whose names are publicized, celebrated at banquets and emblazoned on building facades and museum wings, Mr. Feeney gave anonymously to universities, medical institutions, scientific endeavors, human rights groups, peace initiatives and scores of causes intended to improve lives in the United States, Vietnam, South Africa, Australia, Israel, Jordan and other lands.
"An Irish American, he was far more open about his giving in Northern Ireland, which he visited frequently. His aid to Sinn Fein, the Irish Republican Army’s political arm, and the Ulster Defense Association, the Protestant loyalist paramilitary group, helped secure the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 after decades of sectarian violence. In 2007, Mr. Feeney was invited to join leaders of the United States, Britain and Ireland at the birth of a power-sharing government in Belfast.
"But his name appeared on none of the 1,000 buildings on five continents that he gave $2.7 billion to fund. Grants to institutions and individuals were paid by cashier’s checks to conceal the source. Beneficiaries were told that the money came from a generous 'client' who wished to remain anonymous. Those who learned his identity were told not to reveal his involvement.
"His philanthropic organizations were incorporated in Bermuda to avoid United States disclosure requirements, although the arrangements disallowed United States tax deductions for his donations."
The Times writes that "in December 2016, with his donation of $7 million to his alma mater, Cornell University, for student community-service work, Mr. Feeney officially emptied the Atlantic Philanthropies’ accounts. It also fulfilled his pledge to give away virtually all of his wealth before he died, a rarity in the philanthropic world."
When he passed away, Feeney lived with his wife "in a modest rented apartment in San Francisco."