The $600 million dollar man

That's right, $600 million.

Robert Wilson, an investor-turned-philanthropist, is an atheist. However, he loves to invest in underpriced opportunities. So a few years' back he donated $20 million to a fund that supports the Archdiocese of New York's Catholic schools.

"He [Wilson] uses that same strategy when deciding to support a scholarship fund for the [New York] city’s Roman Catholic schools, which caught his eye with a pitch promising that a $10,000 gift would send three students to school. “That’s $3,000 a kid and the New York [public school system] is $18,000. I said, that’s quite a deal.” He went on to donate $20m to the fund. “I’m an atheist,” he notes, “but I think the schools are especially good.”

What makes this interview worth reading is Wilson's view of the state of philanthropy today. Here's a sampling of his view:

"When it comes to higher education, a favourite cause of many of America’s wealthiest donors, however, Wilson is characteristically blunt: “Too much private money goes into colleges. But the overvaluation of universities is just one of many problems Wilson has with US charitable giving. “I think the state of philanthropy in the United States is lamentable. I think it’s a disgrace,” he says.

Wilson’s bête noire is private foundations, which US tax laws require to give away 5 per cent of their assets a year – an amount he finds laughable, particularly in light of such organisations’ high operating expenses. “Basically, the rich either don’t have the interest, the nerve or the generosity to give their money away,” he says.

You can read the whole story in the Financial Times.

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