The bulk of Warren Buffett’s $93.4 billion estate could go to his little-known family foundation that supports abortion rights – and not to the Gates Foundation as executives have been planning.
For years, executives at the Gates Foundation have expected the billionaire to donate the majority of his shares in his company, Berkshire Hathaway, to the global organization after he dies – and have been discussing how best to use the money, according to the Wall Street Journal.
He had previously pledged in 2006 to earmark 85 percent of his stock in his company for charity – with five-sixth of the shares going to the Gates Foundation over the course of his lifetime.
From there, he pledged to give a set, annually declining number of Berkshire “B” shares, to the Gates Foundation as well as the four foundations run by his family members, according to Fortune.
But his 2006 letter was vague about what would happen to his fortune when he dies, with Buffett only writing at the time to the Gateses: ‘I will soon write a new will that will provide for a continuance of this commitment by distribution of the remaining earmarked shares or in some other manner after my death.’
He then announced in 2010 he planned to give away 99 percent of his wealth after he dies, saying in a Giving Pledge ‘my family and I will give up nothing we need or want by fulfilling this 99% pledge.’
Now, the Journal reports, the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation – named for his late wife and run by his son-in-law Allen Greenberg – is hiring additional staff and is planning to spend a massive amount of money it is expecting to receive, with Buffett turning 92 in August.
The organization – which has reportedly donated large sums to abortion rights groups and is largely run by Buffett’s friends and family, with many of his children and grandchildren serving on the board – has expanded recently to add staff in Washington DC and Rwanda.
It is now also reportedly looking at ways to spend a large sum of money – estimated to be $70 to $100 billion – on both international and United States efforts, focusing on reproductive health and primary health – which could include expanding into vaccinations and infectious diseases, an area in which the Gates Foundation has become globally focused.
Warren Buffett may wind up donating a large sum of his $93.4 billion to the foundation his late wife, Susan, left, founded in 1964 – which donates large sums to abortion groups
Buffett, right, now 91, has previously pledged in 2006 to earmark a majority of his shares in his company, Berkshire Hathaway, going to the Gates Foundation over the course of his lifetime – and company executives had expected to receive a large amount of his unpledged shares after he dies
The Susan Thompson Buffett foundation was founded in 1964 by his then wife – who was apparently an activist for abortion rights and access to contraceptives – to provide scholarships to students in Buffett’s home state of Nebraska.
Its website also only describes the scholarships that it gives out, with information on how to apply.
On the bottom of the site, it says: ‘The Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation responds to questions about college scholarships only. The Foundation does not respond to other inquiries.’
But according to the Journal, the organization has spent the bulk of its funds on abortion access and reproductive health issues.
It usually makes its donations anonymously, in keeping with Susan Buffett’s desire to focus on organizations that do the work rather than those that write the checks, unnamed sources told the Journal.
And the majority of its checks go to organizations like Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the National Network of Abortion.
Between 2000 and 2018, it poured $4 billion into organizations that lobby for abortion rights, according to the Capital Research Center, and of that $4 billion, it paid about $675 million to Planned Parenthood of America and its international and state-level affiliates.
It also reportedly donated more than $112 million to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion rights think-tank, and $293 million to the National Abortion Federation.
Susan Thompson Buffett, pictured in an undated photo with Warren and their daughter, also named Susan, was a staunch supporter of abortion rights
Buffett has previously said he let his wife set up the organization in 1964 because he knew little about philanthropy.
But after Susan died in 2004 at the age of 72, he decided to get more involved in philanthropy – and instead focused his efforts on the Gates Foundation, which was then run by the world’s wealthiest couple.
He said at the time he decided to partner with Bill and Melinda French Gates because he trusted they could do a better job giving away the money to help society and fund vaccine and infectious disease causes than the smaller Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation.
‘I came to realize that there was a terrific foundation that was already scaled up – that wouldn’t have to go through the real grind of getting to a megasize like the Buffett Foundation would – and that could productively use my money now,’ he told Fortune magazine at the time.
The Buffett Foundation only had about $270 million in assets as of 2006, according to the Journal, and in another letter, Buffett announced he would earmark shares worth about $3 billion to the foundation.
A third set of shares would be divided equally among three foundations headed by his children – and pledged additional shares to the organizations in 2012.
After Susan died, Buffett focused his efforts on the Gates Foundation, which was then run by the world’s wealthiest couple
Following Bill and Melinda Gates’ public split, Buffett announced he was stepping down from the board – but he and Bill Gates deny still seem to have a friendship
After Buffett’s latest donation to the Gates Foundation earlier this month, Bill Gates tweeted that the donations ‘move me to tears’
Expecting to get the most money upon Buffett’s death, though, the Journal reports, the Gates Foundation’s chief executives, dozens of employees and consultants from management consulting firm McKinsey and Co participated in a years long analysis and plan they dubbed Project Lincoln.
One of the ideas was to create a world children’s savings bank, where each child would receive thousands of dollars, according to the Journal.
But over the years, it seems Buffett, now 91, has grown displeased with the Gates Foundation.
Sources close to the discussions told the Journal that Buffett has shared his displeasure with what he viewed as the bloated size of the foundation, and asked for the headcount to be capped – which led to job cuts in 2015.
He also reportedly took issue with the number of consultants the foundation hired.
Eventually, Buffett started skipping out on board meetings, the Journal reports, and just months after Bill and Melinda Gates announced they were calling it quits, Buffett announced he would stepping down from the board.
‘My goals are 100% in sync with those of the foundation, and my physical participation is in no way needed to achieve these goals,’ he said in a statement last year.
He also said he is dedicated to donating more money to the charity instead of donating his time, calling the work of people who donate both time and effort ‘a much more admirable form of philanthropy than mine.’
Both Gates and Buffett have since denied that his stepping-down was related to the Gates’ divorce, with Buffett continuing to visit his old friend.
And after he donated his latest donation to the Gates Foundation, Gates tweeted: ‘I’m grateful for Warren’s gifts to support the foundation’s work and for our many years of friendship.
‘When he decided in 2006 to make these gifts, it moved me to tears. It still does.’