Warren Buffett Gives Away $4.1 Billion, Resigns as Gates Foundation Trustee

Early Wednesday morning, Warren Buffett announced that he has distributed $4.1 billion in Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK-B) shares to the five foundations that have been the beneficiaries of his largesse since 2006. That was the year that Buffett pledged to give away all his stake in Berkshire to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, Sherwood Foundation, Howard G. Buffett Foundation, and NoVo Foundation.

At the time, Buffett owned 474,998 shares of Berkshire’s Class A stock (BRK-A). Each share is valued at $418,875, based on Tuesday’s close. In his announcement, Buffett said he is “halfway” to his goal of giving away his Berkshire shares and has 238,624 shares remaining, which he estimated are worth about $100 billion.

Buffett also announced his resignation as a trustee of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It is the only fund he supports of which he was a trustee and “an inactive one at that.” Buffett added, “My goals are 100% in sync with those of the foundation, and my physical participation is in no way needed to achieve these goals.”

Buffet also addressed the “hot topic” of philanthropy. Noting that recent attention is “appropriate” because philanthropic contributions may generate “significant tax deductions for the donor.” He went on to describe his taxes:

In my own case, the $41 billion of Berkshire shares I have donated to the five foundations has led to only about 40¢ of tax savings per $1,000 given. That’s because I have relatively little income. My wealth remains almost entirely deployed in tax-paying businesses that I own through my Berkshire stockholdings, and Berkshire regularly reinvests earnings to further grow its output, employment and earnings.

Buffett also says the “easiest deed in the world is to give away money that will never be of any real use to you or your family. The giving is painless and may well lead to a better life for both you and your children.” In his own case, he says:

Over many decades I have accumulated an almost incomprehensible sum simply by doing what I love to do. I’ve made no sacrifice nor has my family. Compound interest, a long runway, wonderful associates and our incredible country have simply worked their magic. Society has a use for my money; I don’t.

Buffett’s full press release is available on the Berkshire Hathaway website.

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