News and analysis
February 06, 2012

On Mega Pledges From Years Past, Donors Made Big Payments in 2011

Courtesy of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Some of America’s biggest charitable donors don’t appear on the current Philanthropy 50 even though they were still writing big checks to charity. The list doesn’t include people who are paying off pledges made in previous years, and in 2011 several of the nation’s big donors were busy making payments, not new commitments. Among those philanthropists are Warren E. Buffett, Bill and Melinda Gates, and Ted Turner.

Mr. Buffett, an investor, gave 19,344,522 shares of Berkshire Hathaway class “B” stock, worth nearly $1.5-billion in 2011, to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The donation was the most recent payment on the pledge of 10 million shares Mr. Buffett made to the Gates foundation in 2006.

However, in January 2010, the company split each class “B” share into 50 new shares. According to the Gates foundation, the stock split did not affect the value of Mr. Buffet’s gift, and his original pledge of 10 million shares converted to 500 million shares after the stock split.

Including his 2011 payment, Mr. Buffett has given the foundation a total of 132,454,052 shares of stock (reflecting the split), worth more than $9.5-billion. He has 367,545,948 shares left to pay to fulfill his pledge.

Last year Mr. Buffett also made payments on additional commitments he had made in 2006. He gave 1,934,452 shares of Berkshire Hathaway class “B” stock, worth $148-million, to the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, which is named for his first wife; and he gave 677,056 shares of the stock, worth $51.8-million, to each of his three children’s foundations. He has promised to give a total of about $1.3-billion apiece to those foundations.

Meanwhile, Mr. Gates, the Microsoft co-founder, and his wife, Melinda, gave approximately $67.9-million in 2011 toward the roughly $3.3-billion pledge the couple made to their foundation in 2004. The couple has paid a total of more than $2.8-billion toward the 2004 commitment and have about $500-million remaining to pay on that pledge.

Another big donor, Mr. Turner, gave $50-million to the United Nations Foundation and the Better World Fund in 2011. Mr. Turner made the donation through his Turner Global Foundation, which was established in 2004. The grant was payment toward a $1-billion pledge the philanthropist made in 1997 to establish the United Nations Foundation and the Better World Fund.

To date, the media mogul has paid slightly more than $900-million toward the pledge.