The most generous business founders and CEOs alive today

12 min read

03 July 2015

While many leading business figures are renowned for focusing on making money first and foremost, a Saudi business magnate and investor has just announced he plans to give away his £28bn fortune. His pledge may be extremely charitable, but he's not the only one making such extensive efforts to give back.

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, CEO of the Kingdom Holding Company, has revealed he plans to give his entire £28bn fortune to charity. His company had a market cap of over $18bn in 2013, and his business interests cover everything from Twitter to Citigroup to 21st Century Fox. He’s believed to be the world’s 20th richest, but said he hoped the donation would help establish a “better world of tolerance, acceptance, equality and opportunity for all”.

He hadn’t yet specified when this gift would be occurring, though he did say that since most of his wealth “was achieved from this blessed country”, he would be making Saudi Arabia his number one priority – “after which our philanthropic efforts will extend to countries around the world”.

Some big names are renowned for their philanthropic sides – Bill Gates of course features on the list. But we’ve gathered some of the most generous business founders and CEOs out there – whose donations and charitable endeavours haven’t been carried out anonymously – some of whom you may be less aware of.

Leonard Bosack and Sandy Lerner – founders of Cisco

Bosack and his ex-wife received $170m in stock when they left multinational corporation Cisco and have donated 70 per cent of what they received from the company, as well as plugging $34m into the Bosack/Kruger foundation which focuses on animal welfare.

Bosack had been credited with pioneering and advancing the commercialisation of routing technology and the profound changes this helped bring about in the computer industry.

The company went public in 1990 – the same year Lerner was fired by management and Bosack resigned. Evidently the duo’s feeling of goodwill hadn’t been hampered as they established the aforementioned charitable foundation, which finances a wide range of animal welfare and science projects, including The Centre for Conservation Biology at the University of Washington.


Gordon Moore – founder of Intel  

With a net worth of $6.7bn, you may not be particularly surprised that Moore is pretty giving when it comes to sharing the joy. A closer look at some of his areas of donation however, indicate that Moore is particularly generous – along with his wife Betty, he has agreed to The Giving Pledge – set up by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett – which means they’ll give away at least half of their wealth to philanthropy. 

Examples of his charitable giving so far includes a $60m donation over the years through 30 grants to Conservation International, $20m to the Wildlife Conservation Society and $100m to the University California nursing school. 

He also set up the Gordon and Betty Moore foundation with his wife in 2000, with a gift worth around $5bn. The pair’s donation to Caltech – of $600m – is believed to be the largest gift to an institution of higher education. Moore said he hoped it would keep it at the forefront of research and technology.


Bill and Melinda Gates – founder of Microsoft

No list of generous businesspeople could be complete without the founder of Microsoft. He was recently declared the richest man in the world for the 16th time (taking the top spot over Mexican businessman Carlos Slim), but regularly seeks to undercut that through huge investment in charity and other causes. 

Gates is probably the most well-known philanthropist out there, giving away more than any other person – including $28bn on initiatives for better health, education and economic development in developing countries (of which $10bn was for developing and distributing vaccines for children in developing countries)  and $210m to Cambridge University Development Office for a global scholarship programme. 

Gates and his wife Melinda have reportedly given away over $29bn in total and received the Forbes 400 Lifetime Achievement Award for Philanthropy. What particularly sets these two apart is their commitment to personally involve themselves in projects – utilising their capabilities as well as their finances to assess problems, strategising how to positively turn them around and actively carrying them out. As Forbes said when it came to the decision – they have turned philanthropy into their full-time professions.

Read on to find about the boss who took 6,400 employees on holiday and the CEO who boosted the salaries of all his workers by taking a pay cut.

Dan Price – Gravity CEO

In terms of personally affecting those around you, few are likely to have made such a generous gesture as Gravity’s CEO. The company announced Price would be taking a hefty pay cut, so that every single employee could have a pay rise

If that doesn’t sound generous enough, seeing just how much Price was chopping off his pay packet to fund the move may convince you. His salary will be down 90 per cent (from one million), to try and ensure each of his employees would be on £47,000 ($70,000) by 2017. 

The 30-year-old said he felt CEO pay had become “way out of whack” and that his pay was based on market rates and what it would take to replace him “and because of this growing inequality as a CEO that amount is really high”. He said he made a “crazy amount” and would reduce his pay to the same minimum as everyone else (at least until the company’s profits recover). 

Even the decision to settle on $70,000 was picked with generosity in mind – Price had seen a Princeton report which found that increases in income above that didn’t have a significant positive impact on people’s happiness.


Stephen Cloobeck – Diamond Resorts founder

There have been some fairly generous bosses featuring on the TV programme Undercover Boss – which in itself may raise an eyebrow among the more sceptical out there. It’s easy to be giving when your every move is going to be recorded. Nevertheless, the founder of Diamond Resorts has blown away all other contenders – he has contributed $2m to his employees, half of which came straight from his own pocket.

He appeared on the programme twice and was dubbed “the most explosive boss” in the history of the series with his high-octane approach and tendency to reveal his true identity far too soon.

What really set Cloobeck apart was the announcement he would be creating a crisis fund for all of his 5,600 workers as he felt he couldn’t just give to a couple of members of his workforce. He said the experience on the TV programme had taught him it was important to “take care of as many people as possible”.

Jacob, a salesman for the company, had been suffering from a complex, rare form of cancer that required the top oncologist in Las Vegas. He was able to afford due to the crisis fund. 

Elsewhere Cloobeck said he’d pick up the tab for a spa attendant’s daughter who had to have surgery, as well as buying her a new house and car.


Li Jinyuan – owner of Tiens Group

In one of the most extravagant public gestures towards employees, Li Jinyuan picked up numerous headlines earlier this year, when he took over half of his employees – 6,400 – to a trip to France. The Chinese billionaire booked up 140 four star and five star hotels across Paris with 4,760 rooms in Cannes and Monaco as a celebration of the 20th anniversary of his firm, the Tiens Group Company.

It operates in a range of sectors, from finance to property, and was founded in 1995. Jinyuan has an estimated wealth of $1.2bn, according to Forbes.

His employees visited the Louvre and other cultural sites, taking 147 buses to the Promendade des Anglais in Nice where they formed the world’s biggest ever human chain (confirmed by the Guinness World Record officials).

Li Jinyuan’s generosity indirectly extended to the French economy too, as it was estimated the country would be a cool £33m better off thanks to the all-expenses-paid holiday.

The only question is how he’ll top it for the 50th anniversary.


Warren Buffett – CEO Berkshire

To round up the list, who better than famous philanthropist Warren Buffett? He may be the most successful investor of the 20th century, but Buffett is also committed to value investing and his own personal frugality, in spite of the eye-watering wealth. He has said he’ll be giving away 99 per cent of his fortune to philanthropic causes – predominantly through the Gates Foundation.

Buffett has said he wants to give his children “just enough so they hat they would feel they could do anything, but not so much that they would feel like doing nothing”.

He pledged about the equivalent of ten million Berkshire Hathaway Class B shares to Bill and Melinda Gates’ foundation, which made it the largest charitable donation in history in 2006. Last year he broke his own person record by donating $2.8bn to the foundation, as well as several other charities.

He has also said: “I’ve worked in an economy that rewards someone who saves the lives of others on a battlefield with a medal, rewards a great teacher with thank-you notes from parents, but rewards those who can detect the mispricing of securities with sums reaching into the billions. In short, fate’s distribution of long straws is wildly capricious.”

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