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Warren Buffett to give away billions

Most the donations will, ironically, go to a foundation run by Bill Gates, the wealthiest man on the planet.

india Updated: Jun 26, 2006 10:28 IST

Warren Buffett, the world's second richest man, on Sunday announced plans to give away an estimated 85 per cent of his estimated $44 billion wealth to charity.

Most the donations will, ironically, go to a foundation run by Bill Gates, the wealthiest man on the planet.

The investment guru said in a statement that on Monday that he would act on letters sent to Gates and other foundations that "that contain irrevocable pledges" to start transferring shares in his Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate to them from July.

He explained the motivation for his gesture in an interview with Fortune magazine, which said the handouts would amount to about 85 per cent of his wealth.

"I know what I want to do," he was quoted as saying, "and it makes sense to get going."

Buffett said there were no immediate concerns about his health and that he is still "having fun" working in high finance.

"I feel terrific and when I had my last physical, in October, my doctor gave me a clean bill of health," he said.

But he did make a link to the death of his wife, Susan Buffett, in July 2004.

The two had been living apart but remained close and Buffett said: "She and I always assumed that she would inherit my Berkshire stock and be the one who oversaw the distribution of our wealth to society."

Buffett, 75, made his billions from astute investments that turned him into an world acclaimed operator. But virtually all of the money is concentrated in Berkshire Hathaway -- whose interests range from insurance to property, energy and jet leasing.

The shares will go to five foundations. But more than 83 percent of the stock will go to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which already has a kitty of about $30 billion used to pay for medical research and give educational grants.

Buffett and the Gates' are close friends.

Fortune magazine estimated earlier this year that Buffett has about $44 billion. It said Gates is now worth about $50 billion.

According to Fortune, Buffett plans to eventually become a trustee of the Gates foundation. Bill Gates this month announced plans to withdraw from day-to-day control of Microsoft by July 2008 to concentrate on the foundation.

Buffett said in his statement that the value of the first gift to the Gates foundation would enable it to increase spending by about $1.5 billion.

"I greatly admire what the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMG) is accomplishing and want to materially expand its future capabilities," he said.

"In the future I expect the value of my annual gifts to trend higher in an irregular but eventually substantially manner," he added.

Shares will also be given to the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, the Howard G Buffett Foundation, Susan A Buffett Foundation and NoVo Foundation (Peter A Buffett) run in the name of his late wife and by other members of his family.

Buffett said he would set aside 10 million shares of class B common stock for the foundation, and award five percent of the balance of those shares once a year. On Friday, a Berkshire Hathaway class B share was worth 3,071 dollars on the New York Stock Exchange.

Buffett's wife died of a stroke at the age of 72. Buffett said that his wife had always wanted to give away their money faster.

"I always had the idea that philanthropy was important today but would be equally important in one year, 10 years, 20 years and the future generally."

Buffett said he did not think the gifts would harm the value of Berkshire Hathaway stock.

"I would not be making the gifts if they would in any way harm Berkshire's shareholders. And they won't," he vowed.

Buffett said he greatly US admired media mogul and CNN founder Ted Turner, whose has extensively engaged in philanthropic activities and donated one billion dollars to the United Nations.

But he insisted he was not getting emotional when it came to parting with his money.

"Well, I have zero of that," the financier said. "To me, there's just no emotional downside to this at all."