Irish American billionaire philanthropist Charles ‘Chuck’ Feeney, who donated nearly $30 million to Bermuda over the years, has passed away at the age of 92.
A spokesperson said, “Irish American billionaire philanthropist Chuck Feeney who gave close to $30 million to the Bermuda community over the years has died at the age of 92. Mr Feeney temporarily relocated his family to Bermuda in 1979, when he incorporated General Atlantic Group Limited here, the parent company of his business interests.
“In 1982, The Atlantic Foundation, the first and the largest of The Atlantic Philanthropies’ charitable entities, was established in Bermuda. At the time, the creation of foreign foundations was such a new concept on the island that it required a special Act of the Bermuda Parliament.
“Bermudian Dr Myra Virgil, CEO and Managing Director of the Bermuda Foundation, worked for Chuck Feeney’s private foundation The Atlantic Philanthropies for five years as Bermuda’s Programme Executive.”
Dr. Virgil said, “It was an honour to have been involved in the philanthropic work of this extraordinary man.
“He was a true philanthropist, giving away all his wealth during his lifetime. Initially this was accomplished anonymously but eventually the fund was so large that it required a significant professional infrastructure. His particular focus was health, education, reconciliation and human rights.”
The spokesperson said, “The son of a nurse and insurance underwriter, Mr Feeney made billions of dollars through the sale of duty-free luxury items around the world – but he personally was never interested in the material trappings of wealth and gave most of it away. It is reported that The Atlantic Philanthropies donated more than $8 billion to causes in five continents, with grants mainly in the US, the UK, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, Vietnam, Cuba and Bermuda.
“Chuck Feeney’s private foundation was supportive of the creation and establishment of the Bermuda Foundation – from the feasibility phase onwards.”
Dr. Virgil said, “Bermuda has been so fortunate to have had the connection with Chuck.”
The spokesperson said, “As Atlantic Philanthropies was winding down, discussions with colleagues at Atlantic and in Bermuda made it clear that a community foundation would be significantly beneficial to Bermuda to ensure continuing support for the essential work of our nonprofits.”
“A report published by The Atlantic Philanthropies said:
“As Atlantic prepared to end grantmaking in Bermuda, it was concerned with a post-recession decline in government support of nonprofit organisations and the relatively weak capacity of philanthropy on the island to address the needs of the most vulnerable. In 2010-11, the government cut funding to nonprofits by over 50 per cent.
“To examine how to best meet their needs, Atlantic funded research in 2011 to assess the feasibility of establishing a community foundation to provide larger scale and more reliable funding for nonprofit organisations.
“The research found that Bermuda would benefit from such a collaborative funding enterprise and that several corporate and private foundations and high net-worth individuals would likely support it. With a $498,000 grant from Atlantic and investments from Renaissance Re [$100,000] and XL Foundation [$50,000], in January 2013 the Bermuda Community Foundation [BCF] was legally established. A number of individuals and families also have established their own donor-advised funds through the foundation.”
The spokesperson said, “On behalf of the Bermuda Foundation, Dr Virgil thanked Mr Feeney for his remarkable contribution to Bermuda’s community.”
Dr. Virgil said, “He was a rare man: while he expected accountability for his donations, he never expected to be feted for his contribution to a better life for so many in communities around the world. An enormously successful entrepreneur and businessman – he was a humble human being, who would travel in economy, didn’t own huge houses, and dined at the simplest restaurants. He treated people with respect and honoured the contribution that frontline service providers made. In short, Chuck’s legacy is a better world.”
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