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Is Paul Allen Really Cheap?

By Tom Watson on March 1, 20073 Comments

That’s the controversial question raised by Wall Street Journal writer Robert Frank in his The Wealth Report blog. Can a man who gave away "$900 million over the course of his life" be considered stingy? Frank clearly does, because he raises the question – and argues that it’s all relative. He writes:

Now $900 million may sound like an awful lot to most people, and it
is. But compared with Bill Gates, who’s pledged to give away the bulk
of his $51 billion fortune to his family foundation, Mr. Allen’s gifts might appear relatively light.

doesn’t help that Mr. Allen is known for his personal luxuries: He
reportedly spent more than $250 million for his latest yacht, Octopus.
Add to that his fleet of private jets, his other two mega-yachts, and
his sports teams, and Mr. Allen could certainly be in the running for
the Conspicuous Consumer of the Year award.

But the post really gets interesting in comments. Here’s one typical reaction (keep in mind, this is the WSJ):

It’s his money and he has given away 900 millon and you infer he is not doing enough–GET BENT !!!

Others are more thoughtful, noting that among billionaires, some aim to change the world now (Gates) and some plan to divest later on (Buffett). And at least one pointed out that Allen invests in for-profit enterprises that have philanthropic aims, a la Richard Branson. Interestingly, the cause of all this was the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s annual list of most generous Americans. Do we need a new definition of  "generous" for our changing world?

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  • Al Golnquin says:

    You can give money away, and it goes to work temporarily, or you can build businesses that last, and give profits away indefinately. So unless you know the inner workings of someones finances, it is wrong to judge. Alot of the high net-worth individuals in the world are atheists, That would make them unaware of the verse ‘Freely you have received..freely give’
    Nor would they know the Apostle Paul’s thoughts on how things have no value, and are mere ‘rubbish’.

  • Al Golnquin, you show your ignorance, but that’s not surprising. Did you know that the five biggest philanthropists ever–Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, George Soros, Howard Hughes, and Li Ka-Shing, are all atheists? Meanwhile, the two Mexican billionaires who come close to Gates in personal wealth have done nothing charitable of note.

  • doitnow says:

    There is no excuse for that kind of stinginess. Surely much of his wealth should be invested for future philanthropy, but even Gates and Buffet are clueless, as are most persons of great wealth. There are certainly immediate problems that could be solved. How about free spaying and neutering of pets and strays? Giving to great, big educational institutions and vast disease research sounds nice, but how about just solving some immediate problems you see on your streets? I would rather see problems solved right there in front of me than only having my name plastered on institutions under the pretense of helping find future solutions. And there’s no excuse for millions of dollars for a yacht, especially hundreds of millions.

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