Billionaire Philanthropists Met Secretly in NYC

Wednesday, 20 May 2009 01:02 PM

By Dan Weil

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A group of the country’s biggest philanthropists gathered secretly in New York City on May 5 to discuss the recession and its impact on philanthropy.

The world’s two richest men, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, along with financial scion David Rockefeller called the meeting, according to IrishCentral.com, which was the first to report on the gathering.

Other attendees included TV moguls Oprah Winfrey and Ted Turner, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and hedge fund legend George Soros. Each participant had 15 minutes to discuss the best way to run his/her charity in the current difficult economic environment.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy estimates the participants have donated more than $72 billion to charity since 1996. The meeting took place at Rockefeller University.

Charities have been hit hard by the global recession, and the meeting probably tried to set a new course for philanthropy, Stacy Palmer, editor-in-chief of the Chronicle told ABCNews.com.

Such a meeting is highly unusual, she points out. “I can't think of another time they've all been in the same room to talk about philanthropy,” she said. “It's unprecedented.”

In all likelihood, the group had probably never been in the same room at once for anything.

Gates, the Microsoft founder whose net worth is estimated by Forbes at $59 billion, donated $13.7 billion to charity from 2002 to 2008.

And Buffett, the investment guru whose net worth is estimated at $52 billion, donated $46.1 billion between 2002 and 2006, according to Portfolio. In 2006, he pledged $31 billion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, doubling the organization's endowment in a single stroke.

ABCNews.com points out that the meeting was reminiscent of the 1907 gatherings that J.P. Morgan held in his home to try to halt the nation’s financial panic.

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