Omaha investor Warren Buffett said Monday he plans to donate $3.6 billion of Berkshire Hathaway stock to five charities — one of his largest gifts ever — while Walmart heir Jim Walton gave away $1.2 billion of the retailer’s shares last week.
And Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus said this weekend that he’s planning to donate almost his entire $4.5 billion fortune before he dies.
The donations are occurring amid debate over how best the richest Americans should use their money to help address income inequality and other economic imbalances. Last week, a group including George Soros and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes called for a wealth tax to help provide funds for fighting climate change and public health initiatives. Others such as Buffett have argued that they prefer to have entities such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation oversee the charitable work.
Buffett’s gift brings the total amount of stock he’s donated to foundations to about $34 billion since making a pledge in 2006 to give away all his fortune, according to a statement Monday. The recipients include the Gates Foundation, as well as charities named for his late wife and ones run by his children.
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The recipient of Walton’s gift wasn’t disclosed in a June 27 regulatory filing, but family members have regularly donated to the Walton Family Foundation, whose causes include education and the environment. The foundation awarded more than $595 million in grants in 2018, according to its website, and had assets of $4.9 billion at the end of 2017.
Buffett has spent more than five decades crafting Berkshire Hathaway into a company with a market value of more than half a trillion dollars, spanning industries from insurance to manufacturing. Its success once made him the world’s richest man, though he has fallen back to fourth place as he steadily gives his fortune away.
The original 2006 plan was later modified, and now envisions posthumously donating all of the Berkshire stock within a decade after his estate is settled.
Buffett has long supported the Gateses’ charitable endeavors and said in 2006 that he aimed for the stock donations to ramp up their foundation’s “already impressive effectiveness” addressing societal problems. Buffett is also giving stock to the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, Sherwood Foundation, Howard G. Buffett Foundation and NoVo Foundation.
Jim Walton’s donation cut his net worth to about $50 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. His older brother, Rob Walton, also donated 135,000 Walmart shares — worth $15 million — a separate filing last week shows.
The Omaha World-Herald is owned by Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
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Warren and Susan Buffett at their home at 5202 Underwood Ave. in 1956. The family was “back in Omaha and ready for a picnic,” The World-Herald reported. Susie was 2½, and Howard was 17 months.
From left: Bill Scott, Warren Buffett and John Harding in May 1966.
In 1969, Warren Buffett was a vice president of Omaha's Boys Club. Here, member Spencer McGruder gives the president's gavel to C. Clifton Nelson as Buffett looks on.
Warren Buffett in the mid 1970s.
Warren Buffett and Rose Blumkin announce the partnership between Nebraska Furniture Mart and Berkshire Hathaway in September 1983. They are seated in the carpet department of the Mart.
Warren Buffett at his Kiewit Plaza office in 1982.
Warren Buffett was featured on the cover of Fortune Magazine in April 1988.
Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger take questions from shareholders after Berkshire's annual meeting in April 1989.
Warren Buffett checks out the Coca-cola at the Berkshire meeting in April 1989.
Warren Buffett and Dick Denton play bridge in 1990 at the Omaha Bridge Studio.
Leila Buffett, then 88, talks with her son Warren Buffett before the company's annual meeting in 1992. At center is Charles Higgins, president of See's Candy.
Warren Buffett tosses out a pitch before the start of the Omaha Royals' home opener at Rosenblatt Stadium on April 11, 2003. Buffett's jersey was retired before the game.
Warren Buffett drinks a Coke at the First National Bank Building in 1992.
Warren Buffett guest starred on an episode of "All My Children" in 1993. Here he has a scene with Jill Larson as Opal Cortlandt.
Warren Buffett at his Berkshire office at Kiewit Plaza in 1993. He'd placed his hands and feet in cement for a fundraiser for the Omaha Community Playhouse.
Warren Buffett winds up to throw out the first pitch at an Omaha Royals/Buffalo game in April 1995.
Warren Buffett drives himself away from a Berkshire Hathaway meeting at the Holiday Inn in 1996.
A photographer captures Warren Buffett on the sidelines of the Texas/Nebraska game in October 1998 for a Fortune Magazine feature.
Bill Gates says Warren Buffett has basically stuck to eating what he liked when he was 6 years old. He mostly eats hamburgers, ice cream, and Coke. Here, two of the world's richest men are about to get some burgers and fries during a 1995 visit to McDonald's in Hong Kong. Said Gates of Buffett: "Always thrifty, Warren paid with coupons."
Warren Buffett and Bill Gates play a hand of bridge for the press before the start of a bridge tournament at the Omaha Bridge Studio in 2004.
Warren Buffet collects his chips after winning a hand next to Joe Moglia, CEO of TD Ameritrade, during the Omega/Casino Royale Texas Hold 'Em Tournament as part of the Borsheims grand re-opening in 2006.
Former Kansas City Royals third baseman George Brett hands over a game ball to Warren Buffett after Buffett threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Texas Rangers baseball game against the Kansas City Royals, June 11, 2008, in Kansas City.
Warren Buffett eats a Dilly Bar and talks with reporters at the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway exhibit during the 2011 Berkshire meeting.
David Rubenstein, president of the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., gives Buffett a jacket from his high school alma mater, Woodrow Wilson High School, with the "47" on the sleeve for Buffett's graduation class of 1947. Buffett's response: "Go, Tigers!" That's the name of the Wilson High mascot.
Warren Buffett breaks out a giant paddle while playing against Olympian Ariel Hsing during several rounds of ping pong at Regency Court in Omaha on May 6, 2012.
Warren Buffett plays cards during a Berkshire Hathaway event at Regency Court on May 1, 2016.
Warren Buffett takes a swig of a Cherry Coke before participating in the newspaper toss at the 2017 Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting.
Warren Buffett poses with a large image of himself at UNO's Mammel Hall in 2013.