Billionaire Saudi Prince pledges to donate $32 bn for charity

Published: July 1, 2015
The 60-year-old magnate belongs to the Saudi royal family and is a nephew of king Abdullah, who died on January 23. PHOTO: REUTERS

The 60-year-old magnate belongs to the Saudi royal family and is a nephew of king Abdullah, who died on January 23. PHOTO: REUTERS

RIYADH: Saudi tycoon Prince Alwaleed bin Talal on Wednesday promised his entire $32 billion (28.8 billion euro) fortune to charitable projects in coming years, in one of the biggest ever such pledges.

The pledge is “maybe… the first such big announcement” of its kind in the region, and is modelled on a charity established by Microsoft founder Bill Gates in the United States, the prince told reporters.

Alwaleed said his charity “will help build bridges to foster cultural understanding, develop communities, empower women, enable youth, provide vital disaster relief and create a more tolerant and accepting world.”

The money “will be allocated according to a well-devised plan throughout the coming years”, he said, but stressed there was no time limit for the donation to be spent.

Alwaleed said he would head a board of trustees tasked with spending the funds, which would still be used after his death “for humanitarian projects and initiatives”.

The 60-year-old magnate belongs to the Saudi royal family and is a nephew of king Abdullah, who died on January 23.

In the conservative kingdom, Alwaleed, who holds no government rank, is unusual for his high profile and periodic comments about economic issues.

“We are clearly in very close coordination with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation”, which is already working with Alwaleed on a polio eradication project, he said.

“This is very much separate from my ownership in Kingdom Holding,” and there should be no impact on the publicly listed company’s share price, Alwaleed told reporters on the 66th-floor headquarters of the firm which he chairs.

‘Dramatic and drastic’

But he said his charitable commitment would provide even more incentive for his business investments to be profitable.

As well as media stakes, Kingdom Holding has interests ranging from the Euro Disney theme park to Four Seasons hotels and Citigroup.

Alwaleed is constructing a tower in the Red Sea city of Jeddah that is to rise more than one kilometre (almost 3,300 feet) to be the world’s tallest building.

Earlier this year, he opened a pan-Arab news channel in Bahrain but authorities there shut the station after less than 24 hours on air and a new home is being sought.

Alwaleed last week in Paris signed a letter of intent with France’s CDC International Capital to create the first French-Saudi investment fund, worth up to $400 million.

A separate deal saw a French consortium and CDC IC invest about $150 million in Kingdom Holding.

Alwaleed told reporters he has already donated a total of $3.5 billion over more than 35 years through his Alwaleed Philanthropies.

The charity has distributed houses and provided electricity to isolated Saudi communities, while supporting other projects around the world.

He said he announced his pledge now, after years of preparation, to institutionalise the process “so they can continue after my lifetime”.

Flanked by his son Prince Khaled and daughter Princess Reem, he said they will be president and vice-president of the charity after he dies.

“I believe that a person should take dramatic and drastic decisions at his peak,” Alwaleed said, proclaiming himself to be in good shape.

“I’m very healthy, enough to bike every day three hours,” he said. “I assure you my health is good.”

The size of his personal fortune dwarfs that of most other generous billionaires who have made similar pledges in the past.

Here some notable examples.

Melinda and Bill Gates. PHOTO: AFP

Melinda and Bill Gates: In 2000, the richest couple in the world at the time set up the Gates Foundation to raise billions of dollars to fight disease and fund education around the world. It was based in Seattle, Washington and donated almost $4.0 billion in 2014.

Bill and Melinda Gates with Warren Buffet. PHOTO: AFP

Gates/Warren Buffet: In 2010, Gates, who founded the IT group Microsoft, and billionaire US investor Warren Buffet launched the Giving Pledge, a campaign to get the richest people in the US to give half their fortune to charities. Their effort went global in early 2013. Among the more than 100 billionaires who have committed themselves are Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Oracle boss Larry Ellison, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, Indian IT magnate Azim Premji (Wipro), Malaysian businessman Vincent Tan, British businessman Richard Branson (Virgin), German IT boss Hasso Palttner (SAP), activist investor Carl Icahn, and film producer George.

Forbes magazine estimates Gates’ fortune at $72.9 billion and that of Buffet at $72.7 billion.

In 2012, Buffet made a separate donation of $1.5 billion to the Gates Foundation.

Patrice Motsepe. PHOTO: AFP

Patrice Motsepe: The South African billionaire was the first African to respond to the Giving Pledge. His fortune, based in large part on the mining sector, is currently estimated by Forbes at $1.64 billion. Motsepe aims to help the poor, disabled and unemployed in South Africa. In 2014, he donated a billion dollars to fight the Ebola epidemic.

Vladimir Potanin. PHOTO: AFP

Vladimir Potanin: The Russian entrepreneur, with an estimated fortune of $14.5 billion at the time, signed up in 2013.

Viktor Pinchuk. PHOTO: AFP

Viktor Pinchuk: The Ukrainian industrialist, whose fortune was then estimated at $3.7 billion, signed on as well.

Tim Cook. PHOTO: AFP

Tim Cook: The head of Apple said this year that his entire fortune will go to charity after his death. It is currently estimated at around $120 million, plus stock options that have a current value of around $665 million.

Liliane Bettencourt. PHOTO: AFP

Liliane Bettencourt: The French head of L’Oreal cosmetics, and her husband created the Bettencourt Scheuller Foundation in 1987. Scheuller was the name of her father, who founded L’Oreal. Among the charities funded by the foundation is the Solthis organisation that fights AIDS. Forbes puts her current worth at $40.9 billion.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (18)

  • Hammad Mian
    Jul 1, 2015 - 9:16PM

    Appreciate his thinking and Good luck with your future endeavors.Recommend

  • Shahid
    Jul 1, 2015 - 9:32PM

    I don’t believe sudi can be mature enough to carry such act.. Recommend

  • doom
    Jul 1, 2015 - 9:55PM

    Finally, an Arab sheikh is doing something (that isn’t useless and bonkers). I’ve always said Arabs are the most useless people on Earth. For the amount of money they have, they ought have cured cancer or like invented something-anything. How can you be so useless with so much money and while claiming to have invented mathematics or whatever. Recommend

  • Stranger
    Jul 1, 2015 - 10:11PM

    Why dont they go and help Greece. That would mean helping out the millions inisde the boiling cauldron . Recommend

  • wb
    Jul 1, 2015 - 10:12PM

    Just charity or Muslim charity?Recommend

  • israr
    Jul 1, 2015 - 10:13PM

    I hope this charity is not used to forment unrest and extremism in Muslim Ummah.Recommend

  • Insaaf
    Jul 1, 2015 - 10:27PM

    More Wahabism?Recommend

  • Jalal
    Jul 1, 2015 - 11:25PM

    There must be a catch. He would still be in-charge of the money spending and after him his family. Nothing to stop them from spending on themselves lavishly as administrators of the fund.Recommend

  • Amir
    Jul 2, 2015 - 12:15AM

    Donate to charity supporting ISIS?Recommend

  • Rustam Chowki
    Jul 2, 2015 - 12:21AM

    And not to be outdone, we await in eager anticipation Mr Ten percent’s announcement of his multi billion dollar charity fund….from his left pocket to his right !Recommend

  • abc
    Jul 2, 2015 - 1:07AM

    He should support the victims of Jihadi terror world over, including Pakistan. Many people dies and left behind orphans. He should spend his money on the education of such children and extend all possible help. He should spend his money on de-radicalizing Muslim youth. He will be remembered in history if he can just do this much. Recommend

  • Seems unlikely
    Jul 2, 2015 - 2:59AM

    An arab will help empower women and create a more tolerant and accepting society?Recommend

  • saad
    Jul 2, 2015 - 4:45AM

    build a good research university like Oxford or Harvard, it will have greater impactRecommend

  • Jul 2, 2015 - 5:08AM

    first of all, help the refugees of syria and yemen to cope with the conflict. try to end this conflict so that they can return home. Recommend

  • KR
    Jul 2, 2015 - 5:28AM

    Why can’t our politicians learn from these nice folks and do something right for once instead of taking 10% at a time from Pakistan. Let’s face it you can’t take it with you and no one has ever been able to do it. Recommend

  • abreez
    Jul 2, 2015 - 6:41AM

    Saudi tycoon Prince Alwaleed bin Talal on Wednesday promised his entire $32 billion (28.8 billion euro) fortune to charitable projects, like Al Qaeda, ISIL, anyone who’ll fight against Syrian regime, anyone who’ll fight against Iran, anyone who’ll fight against Yemen, for Mullah Mafia in Pakistan, etc., etc. I think he should promise his entire $32 billion for his children and wives, it will be greater noble cause.Recommend

  • Just Give.
    Jul 2, 2015 - 10:45AM

    Look at the life of Abdul Sattar Edhi who lives,in Karachi. He has nothing to give, yet he has given the most a human can ever give. One does not need a big bank account to give. One can give as Edhi gives without fear, without favour, he has given love and hope, he has inspired millions to give. He epitomizes what any human can do. Recommend

  • Hungry
    Jul 2, 2015 - 1:46PM

    Please do not donate any single Penny to Pakistan,,, Because it will make only our politician and bureaucrats more rich…Recommend

More in World