Five years ago Chuck Feeney vowed he’d give away his riches by 2016.
He met his goal in December.
His remaining personal net worth is slightly more than US$2 million.
That’s not quite broke by any standard but it is a modest amount for a man who controlled thousands of times as much wealth.
He and his wife Helga now live in a rented apartment in San Francisco.’You can only wear one pair of pants at a time’ Feeney has said.
Until he was 75 he travelled only in coach and carried reading materials in a plastic bag.
For many years when in New York he had lunch not at the city’s luxury restaurants but in the homey confines of Tommy Makem’s Irish Pavilion on East 57th Street where he ate the burgers.
None of the major US philanthropists have given away a greater proportion of their wealth and starting in 1982 Feeney did most of this in complete secrecy – leading Forbes Magazine to call him the ‘James Bond of philanthropy’.
His name does not appear in gilded letters – chiselled marble or other forms of writing anywhere on the 1,000 buildings across five continents that US$2.7 billion of his money paid for.
For years Atlantic’s support came with a requirement that the beneficiaries not publicise its involvement.
Beyond Feeney’s reticence about blowing his own horn ‘it was also a way to leverage more donations – some other individual might contribute to get the naming rights’ said Christopher Oechsli the president and chief executive officer of Atlantic.
During the early 1990s Feeney met secretly with paramilitary forces in Belfast Northern Ireland – urging them to drop armed guerrilla conflict and promising financial support if they embraced electoral politics.