Saturday, December 10, 2005

Tom Hunter: “almost accidental philanthropist”

Andrew Carnegie (see preceding post) has a new disciple — and a Scot, to boot!

Alan Cowell profiles Tom Hunter in today's New York Times:
When Tom Hunter says he plans to get serious about something, he seems to mean it. Earlier this year, after touring Africa with former President Bill Clinton , Mr. Hunter - now Sir Tom - resolved to get serious about philanthropy for a continent in turmoil. The result? A promise of $100 million, ponied up for projects to wrest Africans from poverty - not bad for a man of 44 who started off his business career with borrowed money, selling sneakers.
Son of a greengrocer, Hunter borrowed from his family to start a chain of sneakers stores. Seven years ago he cashed in, selling his Sports Division chain for a considerable fortune.
When they first became rich, in 1998, Sir Tom said, he and his wife, Marion, formed a charitable trust because it was "tax efficient," making him almost an accidental philanthropist. Then, becoming frustrated with some of his early giving in Scotland, he turned for advice to Vartan Gregorian, the president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, a choice of guru that reflected his reverence for the Scottish-born forefather of American philanthropy, Andrew Carnegie.

Indeed, Sir Tom likes to quote Andrew Carnegie, saying, "He who dies thus rich dies disgraced." He matches that adage with a public vow of his own, made in a recent speech: "I would leave this world as we came into it, with nothing. My family and kids would be well looked after but would not be burdened by the challenge of managing phenomenal wealth." ("My kids like to debate that," he added.)
Sir Tom has plenty of room for more philanthropy before he gets to "nothing." He ranked sixty-ninth on last spring's Sunday Times Rich List.

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