The Billionaire Who Wasn’t

September 24, 2007 at 3:46 pm (Books)

My mom sent me a recent Business Week magazine, and the book review in it was about a new book that just came out titled The Billionaire Who Wasnt: How Chuck Feeney Made and Gave Away a Fortune Without Anyone Knowing. It looks to be a fascinating study of a man who built a huge international business and made, literally, billions of dollars, yet devoted his life to giving it all away, with one stipulation: that no one should know about it. From the brief review I read, he seems like a fascinating man, certainly a rarity in today’s culture, where everyone’s goal seems to be to garner as much recognition as you can, whether you deserve it or not. I am definitely going to try to find this book, and read it when I have the time. Who knows when that will be, but at least I have the intention, right?

Here’s the book description from

In 1988 Forbes Magazine hailed Chuck Feeney as the twenty-third richest American alive. Born in Elizabeth, New Jersey to a blue-collar Irish-American family during the Depression, a veteran of the Korean War, he had made a fortune as founder of Duty Free Shoppers, the world’s largest duty-free retail chain. But secretly, Feeney had already transferred all his wealth to his foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies. Only in 1997, when he sold his duty free interests, was he “outed” as one of the greatest and most mysterious American philanthropists in modern times. A frugal man who travels economy class and does not own a house or a car, Feeney then went “underground” again, until he decided in 2005 to cooperate in a biography to promote giving-while-living. Now in his mid-seventies, he is determined his foundation should spend the remaining $4 billion in his lifetime. The Billionaire Who Wasn’t is a tale of one of the greatest untold retail triumphs of the twentieth century, and of what happens to a unique man and his family when confronted with wealth beyond imagining.


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