First item on the agenda: fixing the world

Richest philanthropists join forces to help charities struggling through recession

There are the great, and there are the good, and then there are those who are both – and in a plush Manhattan residence overlooking the East River earlier this month, America's greatest philanthropists assembled for a closed-doors meeting to discuss how best to tackle some of the world's most pressing problems, from disease to education to poverty reduction.

This first Philanthropists Summit was put together discreetly by the Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, and the investment guru Warren Buffett, the world's wealthiest and second-wealthiest men respectively. And the list of attendees reads like a page from the Forbes magazine Rich List.

The event comes at a time of great difficulty for many charities, whose rich donors have seen much of their wealth evaporate with the credit crisis and whose own endowments have suffered big losses.

Even the existence of the meeting was kept quiet and details have only been seeping out over the past few days, igniting the blogosphere with conspiracy theories. What could the likes of Oprah Winfrey, the New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the currency speculator George Soros and the media mogul Ted Turner be cooking up between them?

The meeting was held on 5 May at the private residence of the president of Rockefeller University, whose trustee, David Rockefeller, scion of the oil dynasty, helped sort out the venue. Between them, the attendees are worth more than $120bn (£76bn) and have donated more than $72bn to charity since 1996.

Mr Gates heads the world's richest and most powerful philanthropic foundation, named after himself and his wife, Melinda. In 2006, his friend and bridge partner Mr Buffett said he would hand most of his own fortune to the Gates Foundation to give away. Additional collaborations such as this were most likely on the informal agenda at the 5 May meeting, along with ways to encourage other members of the elite billionaires club to join the great global wealth giveaway.

"It wasn't secret," said Patty Stonesifer, the former chief executive of the Gates Foundation, who attended the meeting. "Bill and Warren hoped to do this occasionally. They sent out an invite and people came."

In their letter of invitation, Messrs Gates, Buffett and Rockefeller cited the worldwide recession and an urgent need to plan for the future. They said they wanted to hear the views of a broad range of major figures in the fields of finance and philanthropy.

As details of the meeting emerged on the blog Irish Central earlier this week, Mr Bloomberg – whose $16bn fortune is founded on a financial news business that bears his name – was asked about the event. He characterised it as a simple and informal gathering of friends. "All my friends are philanthropic," he said, "or they probably wouldn't be my friends".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence