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The billionaire giveaway challenge

Marketplace Staff Aug 4, 2010

The billionaire giveaway challenge

Marketplace Staff Aug 4, 2010


Bob Moon: They say, “You can’t take it with you.” And it seems some people are taking that to heart — a few very, very rich people. Today, the Giving Pledge, a charitable organization run by the two richest Americans, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, announced a list of forty new billionaires who’ve promised to give away more than half their fortunes to charity. Among them, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and media mogul Ted Turner.

Also on the list: Alfred E. Mann — net worth, $2.2 billion. He’s the CEO of MannKind, a diversified biopharmaceutical firm, and he’s on the line with us now. Mr. Mann, welcome to the program.

Alfred E. Mann: How do you do, sir?

Moon: Mr. Mann, this Giving Pledge challenge involved giving away at least half your fortune, but you’ve gone beyond that. You said you intend for at least 90 percent of your estate to be devoted to philanthropy. Where do you want that money to go?

Mann: My estate is primarily to be used for developing medical products to improve the quality of life and extend life for people.

Moon: I understand that you have a special interest in licking diabetes. Why this special interest in that area?

Mann: It was an unmet need that I felt was important, and if you look at the world today, the greatest threat to health care throughout the world is diabetes. Today, roughly 300 million people with diabetes, and that number is expected to grow at least to almost half a billion people over the next couple of decades.

Moon: Now is this giving away of your fortunes something that you were planning before Mr. Gates and Mr. Buffett issued this challenge? And what message would you give other billionaires about why this is a good idea?

Mann: Well, first let me say that I made the decision in 1985 to give away my estate. It’s grown substantially since then, and so it’s more significant today. Why do I think it’s a wise thing to do? I believe that inherited money is not wise. I think it can destroy people when you take away their will to be productive, and so I’ve taken care of my family in modest ways and I want to use the money to try to do what I can for civilization.

Moon: Now you say that you don’t believe in inheritance. I have to ask you, how does your family feel about that?

Mann: They’ve known for the last several decades that this was my intention and they — whether they’re comfortable with that, I don’t know — but they certainly accept it.

Moon: Now, do you think this Giving Pledge approach is going to be a strong force for philanthropy? Do you hope this inspires others?

Mann: Well, we hope so. Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett and a number of us have been meeting and talking, hoping to set examples, so people will become more oriented and more motivated to give their estates away, hopefully, during their lifetimes. It seems to me to make more sense to see the good that you can achieve with your money before you die, rather than afterwards.

Moon: Alfred E. Mann is the founder of the Alfred E. Mann Foundation and he’s giving away 90 percent of his estate to be devoted to philanthropy. Thank you very much for joining us, sir.

Mann: You bet.

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