Dubai billionaire Sunny Varkey pledges fortune to charity

Dubai-based entrepreneur Sunny Varkey joins 10 new signatories to the Giving Pledge

Dubai-based entrepreneur Sunny Varkey pledged on Tuesday to give at least half of his fortune to charity as part of a philanthropic campaign by two of the world’s richest men, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet.

The 10 new signatories to the Giving Pledge include Varkey, the founder of private sector schools operator GEMS Education, and his wife Sherly, Brazilian real estate developer Elie Horn and his wife Susy, and Turkish-born yoghurt entrepreneur Hamdi Ulukaya.

In an excerpt from a letter to the Giving Pledge, Varkey, whose has assets of $2.1bn according to Forbes, said charity was ingrained in him from an early age.

“Even when my father earned a small amount, a large percentage was shared with the community we lived in, sometimes at the cost of our own comfort,” he said. “To this day, our underlying philosophy remains that good giving ‘pinches’, meaning that the sacrifice you make has to be felt. Therein lies the appeal of the Giving Pledge to my family.”

Bill Gates, the world’s richest man, created the Giving Pledge five years ago with Warren Buffett, initially to target US-based billionaires. From an initial 40 families in the US, it expanded overseas in 2013 and now spans 137 signatories in 14 countries.

The campaign asks billionaires to give away at least half their wealth during their lifetime or after their death, and to publicly state their intention with a letter. Previous joiners include UK entrepreneur Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, Russian mogul Vladimir Potanin and Indian tech tycoon Azim Premji.

“When we started the Giving Pledge five years ago, we had no idea we’d get this many people to come together. It has really grown, first in the US but more recently all over the world,” said Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We hope to intensify philanthropy and encourage people to get started younger. It’s exciting to see people becoming bolder and more thoughtful in their giving.”

Varkey is likely to focus his giving on education. Alongside his business interests, the Indian-born entrepreneur is the founder of the Varkey Foundation, which aims to improve access to quality education around the world. Last year, he launched the Global Teacher Prize, a $1m competition that seeks to raise the status of teaching. GEMS operates in 19 countries, with 13,000 teaching professionals on staff.

Photo credit: Global Education and Skills Forum