Gulf billionaires swell ranks of Giving Pledge

Another 17 billionaires joined the Giving Pledge to bring the tally to 154 committing at least half their fortunes to charity

A further 17 billionaires, including Saudi Arabia’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and the UAE-based entrepreneur PNC Menon, on Wednesday pledged to give away at least half their fortunes in a philanthropic campaign led by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet.

A total of 154 billionaires have now joined the Giving Pledge, which was founded in 2010 by Buffet, Gates and his wife Melinda, with signatories hailing from 16 countries and ranging in age from 30 to 100.

“This new group joining the Giving Pledge is incredibly thoughtful about their desire to give back and help solve the world’s toughest challenges through philanthropy,” Gates, cofounder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said in a statement.

“Some have been giving for decades and others are just starting out after building successful businesses, but they all see the value of giving in a bold and effective way. Melinda, Warren and I are glad to have the opportunity to learn with them and from them.”

Alwaleed is the first Gulf Arab to join the pledge; news that comes less than a year after the Saudi royal announced he would give his entire wealth – or $32bn – to charity.

In a statement issued at the time, Alwaleed, who owns owns stakes in international firms such as Citigroup and Twitter, as well as Saudi budget airline Flynas, said funds would be channeled into charities that promote health, disease eradication and relief, poverty alleviation and women’s rights.

Also joining the pledge is PNC Menon, the Dubai-based founder of Sobha Group. Founded in Oman, the company is among the largest real estate conglomerates in the Middle East and India, with investments in seven countries.

“With my pledge, I hope to inspire others from India and all corners of the world to partake in philanthropy,” Menon said in a statement. “Based on my experience, the act of giving creates a degree of happiness that is immeasurable.”

Also joining are Airbnb’s Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia, Nathan Blecharczyk and his wife Elizabeth, marking the first time cofounders of a company have signed on at once, according to the Giving Pledge. Mengniu Dairy founder Gensheng Niu marks the first signatory from mainland China.

The campaign does not accept money or tell donors how to spend their money, but instead asks billionaires to make a commitment to give the majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes. Members are asked to publicly state their intentions in a letter.

The signatories join a list of existing names that includes UK entrepreneur Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Indian tech tycoon Azim Premji and Dubai-based education entrepreneur Sunny Varkey.

Photo credit: Kingdom Holding