Monday, May 7, 2007

Sher Value: Billionaire List...SO What?

Around this time each year the much celebrated Forbes list comes out
and with it come a huge pile of trivia related to these billionaires
and their lifestyle. Some of it makes for interesting reading and to
be frank some of it ends up being downright disgusting. The top seven
on the list (891 on the list) have a combined net worth more than the
GDP of the GCC countries. The youngest is 23 (ranked 488) and the
oldest is 98, with a vast number of billionaires being those who
inherited their fortunes. What is more interesting is the way they
vary in their lifestyles and the spending habits of these

An Indian billionaire (5th on the list) owns a $128 million home in
London's posh district, while Warren Buffet, (2nd on the list) has
singed off 85% of his $52 billion worth to designated charities and
still lives in the same home he bought 30 years back for $31,500 (now
valued at $700,000). Buffet recently auctioned his Lincoln Town Car
with its distinctive number plate "Thrifty" to raise money for
charity. What stands out is that there are more billionaires in India
(over two dozen) then there are in the entire GCC! Interestingly the
top two on the list, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have signed off most
of their net worth to charity, and while someone may say its to save
tax I wonder if really tax is a consideration when you have over $50
billion in personal net worth.

Part of the problem with these lists is that while some people are
there for the obvious business worth they created, like the Michael
Dells, Bill Gates, Warren Buffets and Paul Allen's of the world, there
are a number of billionaires who do not disclose enough to make the
list, or keep their worth secret enough that Forbes cannot verify it.
Does this explain the low number of billionaires from the GCC, (only
three from UAE)?

However, what matters is not what you have but how you show it, and
this is where some of the disgust shows up. I have indeed no problem
with wealth and especially if it's hard earned. Yet one can notice the
difference in how this wealth is spent in different billionaire
circles. The Gates foundation (which has joined hands with Buffet to
create financial management to make the foundation assets grow) is
doing an incredible amount of work in area of health, and poverty
alleviation through creating sustainable structure of charity.

I am not sure that billionaires are really ready to pitch into causes
that matter. Of the 891 billionaires only a handful of them are known
for their philanthropy and yet would go to great pains to show of
their wealth. Want me to prove it? In UAE there are 59,000
millionaires in dollar terms, lets create body similar to the Gates
Foundation in Dubai, and each of these 59,000 millionaires donate
$100,000 to this cause, (the three billionaires from the country would
have to be ten times higher) and lets make a change. I would like to
see how many emails do I get for this? I promise in return that I will
put my time and my banking expertise to create and endowment out of
this which will benefit society and select a board of trustees to
manage it. So lets see how many respond, if even 20% respond, I will
eat humble pie and apologize for thinking that wealth and charitable
endowments don't go together.


Anonymous said...


I wondered if you received any offers from UAE millionaires for your trust/charity fund. Sorry that I cannot help personally but interested in your article and the responce.


Grant Reid

Anonymous said...

anwer. been trying to find you. drop me an email. Ann Pepe.