Mark Zuckerberg is not giving 99% of his Facebook shares to a charity

 The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is a limited liability company - not a charity or charitable trust

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, has said that he will give 99 per cent of his Facebook shares away in his lifetime.

Zuckerberg made the promise in an open letter to his newborn daughter, Max, on Facebook. He said he would dedicate 99 per cent of his shares in Facebook to the following "missions": personalised learning, curing disease, connecting people and building strong communities.

To do this, Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan have set up the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a limited liability company - not a charity or charitable trust. Legal filings show that the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is owned and controlled by Zuckerberg. 

A spokesperson has confirmed to Buzzfeed that as a company, the Initiative can spend its money on whatever it wants - including private, profit-generating investment.

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The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative SEC filing

“The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative will pursue its mission by funding non-profit organizations, making private investments and participating in policy debates, in each case with the goal of generating positive impact in areas of great need," the spokesperson said.

"Any profits from investments in companies will be used to fund additional work to advance the mission.”

In November those investments have included:

  • $20 million to help connect American classrooms to fast and reliable internet
  • $5 million in MasteryConnect, a teaching software
  • $5 million to TheDream.US to help undocumented immigrants, in San Francisco attend college
  • $15 million in AltSchool, an education initiative focussing on personalised learning and technology
  • $10 million in Bridge international acadamies

That's a lot of education technology, an area aligned with Facebook's mission of connecting people. It's not exactly eradicating malaria.

Rather than marking him out as the exception, Zuckerberg's pledge puts him in the same bracket as Bill Gates, who has also promised to give away 95 per cent of his wealth to his private foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Warren Buffett, who has also promised 99 per cent of his wealth to Bill and Melinda's Foundation.

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