June 25, 2006

Buffett gives $37 billion to Gates and other foundations

By Robert MacMillan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Billionaire investor Warren Buffett is
donating a total of $37 billion -- most of his personal fortune
-- to a foundation started by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and
to several family foundations, making it the largest-ever
individual charitable gift in the United States.

Buffett, 75, is the chief executive of investment firm
Berkshire Hathaway. He is worth an estimated $44 billion,
according to Forbes magazine, making him the second-richest man
behind Gates, who is worth about $50 billion.

The $37 billion comprises about 85 percent of Buffett's

In a letter to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,
Buffett, 75, said he will set aside 10 million shares of
Berkshire class B common stock for the foundation.

Based on the stock's per-share price of $3071.01 as of
Friday, the total amount for the Gates foundation comes to
about $30 billion.

The amount is the largest commitment to a philanthropic
cause ever made by one person in the United States, said Stacy
Palmer, editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

"Even if you look at what (John D.) Rockefeller and
(Andrew) Carnegie gave historically -- even if you do it in
today's numbers, it doesn't come close to that," she said.

In a letter to the Gateses, Buffett wrote that "You have
committed yourselves to a few extraordinarily important but
underfunded issues, a policy that I believe offers the highest
probability of your achieving goals of great consequence."

"We are awed by our friend Warren Buffett's decision to use
his fortune to address the world's most challenging inequities,
and we are humbled that he has chosen to direct a large portion
of it to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation," the Gateses said
in a statement on the foundation's Web site.

Buffett also pledged 1 million shares to a foundation
established for his late wife, Susan Thompson Buffett, and
350,000 shares each to foundations for children Howard, Susan
and Peter.

He said he will award 5 percent of the shares he has set
aside on a yearly basis.

The amount going to the Gates foundation in the first year
alone would be worth more than $1.5 billion.

Gates is a Berkshire director, and a bridge partner of
Buffett's. Buffett, meanwhile, serves on the board of the
Washington Post Co. with Melinda Gates.

The announcement comes after Gates, 50, said he would move
away from his day-to-day role at the Redmond, Washington-based
Microsoft to focus more on charity work.

Now worth $30 billion, the Gates foundation is one of the
world's richest philanthropic organizations. It has committed
millions of dollars to fighting diseases such as malaria and
tuberculosis in developing countries, and to education and
library technology in the United States.

In letters to the recipients, he said he will award the
gifts every year for the rest of his life. He is in "excellent
health," he wrote to the Gates foundation, but said that he is
writing a new will to ensure that the stock is distributed
after his death.

The gift is contingent on one of the Gateses continuing to
be involved in the foundation, Buffett said.

Berkshire Hathaway officials did not return telephone calls
seeking comment.