Jewish Billionaires Join Group Pledging Majority of Their Wealth to Charity - The Jewish Voice
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Jewish Billionaires Join Group Pledging Majority of Their Wealth to Charity

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Henry Samuei has given tens of millions of dollars to health, education and Jewish cultural institutions.Following the lead of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, a number of Jewish billionaires have joined the “Giving Pledge,” an initiative begun in 2010 wherein affluent business leaders pledge to give the majority of their wealth to charitable causes. The commitment of the pledge is to give away at least 50% of wealth to charity during life or at death.

The new group of donors includes Broadcom co-founder Henry Samueli and his wife Susan; Sequoia Capital partner Michael Moritz and his wife Harriet Heyman; Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal, Tesla Motors and SpaceX; Edgar Bronfman Jr., former CEO of Warner Music Group; Bill Ackman, head of Pershing Square Capital Management; Arthur Blank, co-owner of Home Depot and owner of the Atlanta Falcons; and Glenn Dubin, head of Highbridge Capital Management.

The son of Polish Jewish immigrants who survived Nazi Europe and arrived in the United States practically penniless, Henry Samueli became interested in electronics and earned three degrees, including a Ph.D. in electrical engineering. In 1991, while working as a professor at UCLA, Samueli co-founded Broadcom Corporation, which has grown into a billion-dollar wireless and broadband communication business. In 2005 he and his wife Susan bought the National Hockey League’s Mighty Ducks of Anaheim from the Walt Disney Company for $75 million. Under Samueli’s ownership, the Ducks won the 2007 Stanley Cup championship, and their worth has risen to a reported value of $188 million.

The Samuelis have been known for their magnanimous philanthropic endeavors long before their latest commitment to the Giving Pledge. The couple established the Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, Irvine, and the Samueli Institute of Information Biology based in Washington, D.C. Henry and Susan have also supported the world renowned John Wayne Cancer Institute’s ground-breaking research in the area of cancer prevention and treatment, which has already had a dramatic impact on cancer treatment. The schools of engineering at UCLA and UC Irvine were renamed after Henry Samueli when he donated to these institutions, $30 million and $20 million, respectively, in 1999.

Samueli’s donation founded the Sala and Aron Samueli Holocaust Memorial Library at Chapman University, which was dedicated in 2005. Henry and Susan support Jewish organizations in both Orange County, California, and Israel that foster and preserve Jewish community and culture, such as the Irvine-based Jewish Community Center and Tarbut V’ Torah Community Day School.

Born in Wales, Michael Moritz earned a Master of Business Administration from the Wharton School in Pennsylvania. Moritz went on to write two books on major American companies – Apple Computers and Chrysler – following which he became a venture capitalist at Sequoia Capital in California’s famed Silicon Valley. The business leader’s Internet company investments include Google (where he served on its board of directors), Yahoo!, PayPal, Apple Computers, Cisco, YouTube and Zappos.

The initial public offering of Google in 2004 made Moritz one of Wales’s wealthiest men. His investment in Google helped him achieve the number one listing in Forbes’ “Midas List” of the top dealmakers in the technology industry in 2006 and 2007, and a place on the 2007 “TIME 100.” He is listed by The Sunday Times as having a fortune of $1.1 billion.

South African-born Elon Musk is an American engineer and entrepreneur who in 1999 co-founded, an online financial services and e-mail payment company. One year later, acquired Confinity, operator of the then largest auction payments service PayPal. In 2002, PayPal was acquired by eBay for $1.5 billion in stock. Before its sale, Musk, the company’s largest shareholder, owned 11.7% of PayPal’s shares. PayPal has since become the world’s largest Internet payment system.

In 2002, Musk founded Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), of which he is currently the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Technology Officer. SpaceX develops and manufactures space launch vehicles with a focus on high reliability and cost-effectiveness. The company’s first two launch vehicles are the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 rockets, the latter serving as the Space Shuttle, and its first spacecraft is Dragon. Musk views space exploration as an important step in expanding—if not preserving—the consciousness of human life. Musk has said that multi-planetary life may serve as a hedge against threats to the survival of the human species.

Musk is perhaps best known for his role as co-founder and head of product design at Tesla Motors, where he led development of the Tesla Roadster, arguably the first viable production electric car of the modern era. Tesla expects to be in production with its four-door Model S sedan by July, and the company unveiled its third product, the Model X, aimed at the SUV/minivan market, this past February. Musk is principally responsible for an overarching business strategy that aims to deliver affordable electric vehicles to mass-market consumers. He is reported to have a 29% stake in Tesla, which is currently valued above $1 billion.

Musk is also the primary investor and chairman of the board of SolarCity, a photovoltaics products and services 2006 startup company. The underlying motivation for funding both SolarCity and Tesla is to help combat global warming.

Edgar Bronfman, Jr. is an heir to the Bronfman family – one of the wealthiest and most influential Jewish families in Canada – which gained its fortunes through the Seagram Company, an alcohol distilling company. After moving to London to become managing director of Seagram Europe, Bronfman returned to New York as President of the House of Seagram, the company’s U.S. marketing division. By 1994 he became the Chief Executive Officer, where he began a move away from the traditional liquor business and into entertainment.

Bronfman had always had a strong interest in working in the arts.  In the 1970’s, he had a brief career in entertainment as a film and Broadway producer, and has dabbled as a professional songwriter. He later served as vice-chairman of Vivendi Universal, a French multinational mass media and telecommunication company headquartered in Paris, France.

In February of 2004, Bronfman acquired Warner Music Group, and he served as Chairman and CEO of the company for the next seven to eight years, respectively. Bronfman helped transform WMG by rapidly growing the company’s digital music sales, redefining the relationships it has with artists and diversifying its revenue streams through its expansion into growing areas of the music business. In May, 2011, WMG and Bronfman announced the company’s sale to Access Industries for $3.3 billion cash. He also currently chairs the Board of Directors of Endeavor, an international non-profit development organization that finds and supports high-impact entrepreneurs in emerging markets.

A Harvard graduate, in 1992 Bill Ackman co-founded Gotham Partners, a company that mainly invested in non-publicly traded companies and real estate concerns. By 1998, the firm had more than $500 million in assets. He later became the major investor, founder and CEO of the activist hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management, which owns a major stake in Target Corporation.  In the recent past, PSCM has acquired positions in Wendy’s International, McDonald’s Corporation, J.C. Penney, Borders Group and Fortune Brands. Pershing Square also owns 12.2% of Canadian Pacific Railway, one of two major Canadian railways.

Ackman’s father is Lawrence Ackman, the chairman of a New York real estate financing firm, Ackman-Ziff Real Estate Group. In conjunction with other members of the Ackman and Ziff families, Bill has given to charitable causes such as the Center for Jewish History to preserve Jewish genealogy.  In this regard, the Ackman family has stated, “We want our children to know, not only their living relatives, but those representing past generations, for a greater connection to their family and ancestral origin and heritage.” Ackman is married to Karen Ann Herskovitz, a landscape architect.

Born to a Jewish family in Queens, New York, Arthur Blank earned a degree in Business Administration and Accounting from Babson College. After working as senior accountant at Arthur Young and Company, Blank rose to president of a major drug and discount store chain, until – in 1978 – he co-founded Home Depot. The store revolutionized the home improvement business with its warehouse concept, making Blank a billionaire. In 2002, Blank purchased the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. Blank is also the Chairman, President, and CEO of AMB Group, LLC, and chairman of The Arthur Blank Family Foundation. He serves on the Board of Trustees of Emory University and the boards of Staples and Cox Enterprises. As of September 2008, his net worth was estimated at $1.3 billion.

A native of Washington Heights, New York, Glenn Dubin began his career in finance as a retail stock broker at E. F. Hutton & Co. in 1978. He was joined in 1984 by childhood friend Henry Swieca, and the pair started Dubin & Swieca, an early “fund of funds” business that constructed multi-manager hedge fund portfolios guided by the principles of modern portfolio theory. In 1992 they started Highbridge Capital Management with $35 million in capital.

Today, Highbridge is an institutional alternative asset management company that has evolved from a multi-strategy hedge fund into a diversified investment business that includes hedge funds, traditional investment management products, and longer-term credit and equity investments. Highbridge, together with its affiliates, manages approximately $27 billion in capital for institutional investors, pension funds, endowments, foundations and family offices.

Dubin is a co-founder of the Robin Hood Foundation, which fights poverty in New York City by funding and creating programs and schools that raise the educational levels of low-income families. In 2010, Dubin gave $5 million to Harvard University to establish the Dubin Fellowship for Emerging Leaders at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership. Dubin is also a trustee of the Mt. Sinai Medical Center. He and his wife funded the Dubin Breast Center at Mt. Sinai in 2010 to provide comprehensive integrated breast care in a patient-centered environment. Dubin is married to Dr. Eva Andersson-Dubin, M.D., a native of Sweden who is an in-house physician at NBC.

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