How do you give away half your stock and get twice as rich in the process? That’s what Warren Buffett has done. The billionaire investor, who has pledged to give most of his fortune to philanthropic causes, announced a new $4.1 billion donation on Wednesday morning. But at a current $100 billion, Buffett is worth more than twice what he was in 2006, when he began making annual gifts of Berkshire Hathaway stock to several foundations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
“Today is a milestone for me,” Buffett said in a statement on Wednesday. “In 2006, I pledged to distribute all of my Berkshire Hathaway shares—more than 99% of my net worth—to philanthropy. With today’s $4.1 billion distribution, I’m halfway there.”
And indeed he is. Buffett owned 474,998 class A shares of Berkshire Hathaway in June 2006. He is now down to 238,624 Berkshire Class A shares after the Wednesday morning announcement.
With his latest gift, the Oracle of Omaha has now donated some $41 billion worth of Berkshire Hathaway stock (based on market prices at the time of each contribution). But despite the tens of billions in donations, he’s richer than ever before. Buffett was worth $42 billion in early 2006, according to Forbes’ calculations.
The reason he’s worth more than twice that now—even after parting with $41 billion worth of stock—is due to the huge runup in the value of Berkshire Hathaway stock. Since June 2006, Berkshire A shares, trading at $415,144 apiece as of 2:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday, have more than quadrupled in value.
If Buffett had held onto all of his Berkshire Hathaway stock, he’d be worth nearly $198.3 billion today, enough to make him the second-richest person on the planet behind Jeff Bezos, who is worth $201.5 billion, Forbes calculates.
Besides the Gates Foundation, Buffett makes annual donations to the foundations that belong to his three children, Susan, Peter and Howard, and to the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, named after his first wife, who died in 2004.
In the press release announcing his latest gift, Buffett pledged that the rest of his Berkshire Hathaway shares “all remain destined for philanthropy.”
Last year, Buffett was one of just 10 billionaires on The Forbes 400 list of richest American with the highest philanthropy score of 5, meaning they’ve given away at least a fifth of their fortune. Forbes calculates philanthropy scores based on a billionaire’s charitable giving as a percentage of net worth, by adding the value of lifetime “out the door” donations—gifts made by charitable foundations to nonprofits or direct gifts to operating nonprofits.
Buffett isn’t the only billionaire whose net worth has soared despite making billions of dollars in charitable gifts. Mackenzie Scott, the former wife of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, gave away nearly $6 billion to nonprofits in 2020 while her estimated net worth jumped almost 50%, to $53 billion, from the year prior—because of the huge runup in the price of Amazon shares.
As part of the announcement on Wednesday, Buffett also said that he would step down as a trustee at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest private charitable foundation. He is 90 years old, and he said he’d been an inactive trustee. Buffett first partnered with Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates (who recently announced they are getting divorced) in 2010, to create the Giving Pledge—in which the world’s wealthiest people promise to commit at least half of their fortune to charity.
Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates, who has a net worth of $126.8 billion according to Forbes, commented on Twitter about the departure of his longtime friend from the Gates Foundation board: “I am truly grateful for his wisdom and leadership, and most of all for his enduring friendship. Warren will continue to inspire our foundation as we work to fight poverty and help millions of people live healthier lives.”
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