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  1. Wealth
November 27, 2023

Warren Buffett says ‘being rich doesn’t make you evil’ but restates criticism of ‘dynastic wealth’ in rare letter to shareholders

The legendary investor and one of the world's richest people, Warren Buffett, presses on with his plans to give away 99% of his wealth

By Suzanne Elliott

American business magnate Warren Buffett has reinforced his rejection of dynastic wealth with a $866 million Thanksgiving gift of Berkshire stock to charities run by his children. 

This was the second year in succession the 93-year-old CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, one of world’s leading corporate conglomerates, had donated millions in stock on the US holiday; last year he gifted $759 million of Berkshire shares to foundations run by his children, Susie, Howard and Peter Buffett.

This year, Buffett converted 1,600 A shares into 2,400,000 B shares, totally around $876 million, in order to give these B shares to four family foundations: 1,500,000 shares to the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation and 300,000 shares each to the Sherwood Foundation, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and NoVo Foundation.

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The Thanksgiving gift was in addition to the regular donations he makes each summer to those endeavours and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

[See also: The ex-lawyer helping billionaires shed their wealth]

‘At Thanksgiving I have much to be thankful for,’ Buffett said in a statement to shareholders, in which he reiterated his pledge to give 99 per cent of his wealth to charity.

The seventh richest man in the world is a committed philanthropist and in 2006 vowed to give away his fortune, a decision, he has since said, he could not be happier about. He has given over $50 billion to charitable causes as of November 2023. 

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Buffett delivered a total of 10.5 million shares to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust earlier this year / Image: Shutterstock

Four years after vowing to gift his fortune, he founded the Giving Pledge with Bill and Melinda Gates, a philanthropy movement where UHNWs are encouraged to commit to giving away the majority of their wealth.

In 2012, Buffett estimated he had already given away about half of his wealth. The remaining shares, he said, were valued at around $100 billion.

In his most recent announcement, Buffett suggested a succession plan had been decided for Berkshire Hathaway, saying it has the right CEO to succeed him and the right board of directors. He said Berkshire was ‘built to last’ and would remain in good hands. 

[See also: Diana Award CEO Tessy Ojo on inspiring future leaders]

‘At 93, I feel good but fully realise I am playing in extra innings,’ he wrote. ‘My three children are now – and this is hard for their father to believe – between 65 and 70 years of age. For some years, their foundations have distributed substantial sums, occasionally to the same donee.’

Buffett said being rich ‘does not make you either wise or evil’ / Pictured: Warren Buffett

He continued: ‘Usually, however, the three follow different paths. My children, along with their father, have a common belief that dynastic wealth, though both legal and common in much of the world including the United States, is not desirable. Moreover, we have had many opportunities to observe that being rich does not make you either wise or evil. 

[See also: Mark Borkowski looks at the campaign for a wealth tax in the UK]

‘We also agree that capitalism – whatever its weaknesses, including the vast disparities in wealth and political influence that it delivers somewhat capriciously to its citizens – has worked wonders and continues to work wonders.’ 

In 2021, he advised the world’s rich to, ‘leave the children enough so that they can do anything but not enough that they can do nothing’.

The Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation is named after Buffett’s first wife who died in 2004. 


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