Saturday, May 24, 2008

Book Review - The Billionaire Who Wasn't by Conor O'Cleary

I just read a fascinating book about Chuck Feeney. I never heard about him before and I'm sure you probably haven't either. I picked up the book because of a quote on the back that talks about his contribution to Ireland. Mr Feeney is an Irish-American born in New Jersey to a working class family during the Great Depression. He made his billions creating the Duty Free Shops you see at airports all over the world.

The story especially resonated with me as I am a first generation Irish-American about to make my first trip to Ireland for a family reunion. His story is one of financial success, great contribution and social significance.

The story of how he made his money makes for a great read. The book tells a great story about how he created tax shelters and protected his identity while becoming the the thirty third richest man in the world.

What he has accomplished in the area of philanthropy is even more interesting. He took to heart the spirit of Andrew Carnegie and has promoted the "Giving while Living" philosophy, He has given away through his Atlantic Foundation over $1 billion dollars and is on track to giving away over $4 billion dollars while he is alive. Mr Feeney not only gave away his money but leveraged it by getting countries to match his contributions. business

If that wasn't enough Mr Feeney got involved behind the scenes in trying to support a end to the violence in Norther Ireland and to create the conditions for peace and reconciliation.

The book is truly inspiring and Chuck Feeney is a role model on many levels.

Some of Chuck Feeney's Contributions:

Education in Ireland: He funded all seven universities in the Republic of Ireland and two in Norther Ireland to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Hotel System in Ireland: He built the first large modern hotel in Ireland since WWII, The The Castletroy Park Hotel

Peace in Northern Ireland: Mr Feeney wanted to assist in taking the guns out of Irish politics. He directed over $30 million through his Atlantic Foundation to worthy projects in Northern Ireland including $2.5 million to help Republican and Loyalist ex-prisoners to move into peaceful politics.

It doesn't stop here he continued to fund education in Eastern Europe to support the move towards freedom there and other social projects in South Africa and Vietnam. His focus on finding worthy projects and worthy people provides a lot to learn from. His uniqueness was doing all this while trying to maintain his anonymity and to give credit to others instead of himself.

Mr Feeney is a truly unique individual and his story is one worth reading.

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