Facebook founder and proud dad Mark Zuckerberg has announced that he and wife Priscilla Chan will give up 99 percent of their shares in Facebook to fund a new initiative inspired by the birth of their daughter Max.
Zuckerberg and Chan celebrated the arrival of their daughter by announcing in a lengthy post on Facebook that they want to create a world that Max can thrive in by using their immense wealth in areas such as education, healthcare and connectivity.
“Like all parents, we want you to grow up in a world better than ours today,” they wrote.
The happy couple will now pour the money into the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to support this goal, with a focus on “personalised learning, curing disease, connecting people and building strong communities”.
“We will give 99 percent of our Facebook shares - currently about $45bn - during our lives to advance this mission,” the couple added breezily.
The money will be given in stages and Zuckerberg will still retain a majority stake in the company for the foreseeable future.
Nevertheless, the intention to give away such a huge amount of money in the name of charity by such a well-known tech figure is notable, and could well encourage others with frankly obscene net worth to do likewise.
Indeed, one of the first to back Zuckerberg and Chan's plans was Melissa Gates, part of the power couple that heads up the Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation which is also dedicated to using the immense wealth Gates generated from Microsoft to improve the planet.
“As for your decision to give back so generously, and to deepen your commitment now, the first word that comes to mind is: wow. The example you’re setting today is an inspiration to us and the world," she wrote by way of reply on the Facebook post.
“We can be confident of this: Max and every child born today will grow up in a world that is better than the one we know now. As you say, 'Seeds planted now will grow.' Your work will bear fruit for many decades to come.”
Michael Bloomberg also praised Chan and Zuckerberg for the decision, claiming that they will never regret it. And he urged other super rich tech leaders to do likewise.
"The traditional approach to giving - leaving it to old age or death - is falling by the wayside, as it should. Mark’s decision shows that, when it comes to philanthropy, 30 is the new 70," he said.
"I share many of Mark’s philanthropic interests, especially around education and innovation, and his focus on long-term ideas and research will help create economic opportunities and promote social equality for generations to come. The only question now is: how many of his peers in Silicon Valley and beyond will join him?"
Whether other leaders, such as those at Google, Apple, Oracle and so forth, are compelled to do likewise remains to be seen, but it is heartening to see a couple with so much wealth and influence recognise at such a young age that their money can be better spent on improving the world, rather than on garish super yachts, private islands or fleets of never-driven sports cars.
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