Saudi tycoon donates fortune for development

Alwaleed bin Talal [Reuters]

Saudi tycoon Prince Alwaleed bin Talal on Wednesday promised his entire $32 billion (€28.8 billion) 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 stated that he would heed 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 23 January.

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.

Bill Gates called the news “an admirable milestone”.

Recently the Microsoft co-founder announced plans to double his personal investment in innovative green technologies to $2bn over the next five years in an attempt to “bend the curve” in combating climate change.

Gates, who is listed by Forbes as the world’s richest person with a net worth of almost $80bn, said he had invested directly in about 15 companies and indirectly in another 30, via venture capital funds, Khosla Ventures and Kleiner Perkins. “Over the next five years, there’s a good chance that will double,” he said in an interview with the Financial Times.

At the recent Development Days organised by the European Commission in Brussels, Melinda Gates said that the foundation “Bill and Melinda Gates” which marks its 15th anniversary this year, is in process of reassessing its priorities.

>>Read: EU to combat malnutrition with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

In 2010, Bill 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.

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