In today’s world, it’s popular to think of businessmen, tycoons, or CEOs as greedy, selfish gluttons, whose employees are secondhand to their yearly profit. However, there are some who have given up vast amounts of their own money to benefit their workers or charities. For no reason other than generosity, these people have shown true empathy and understanding for the trials in today’s economy.
Real estate entrepreneur Yu Pengnian, at 88 years old, donated his entire fortune of 3.2 billion yuan ($1.2 billion) to a charity named after him. He told reporters, "It will all be for charity; no part of it will be inherited by anyone, no part will be used to do business or for investments.”
The world’s second richest man, Warren Buffett, has announced to the editor of FORTUNE magazine that he has plans to give away 85% of his wealth in July. He says most of it will go to Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—a fortune currently worth $44 billion.
The CEO of MEMC Electronic Materials, Ahmad Chatila, has announced he won’t be accepting his $500,000 bonus at the end of 2009. Instead the money will go to the 450 workers being laid off from his company.
Finally, the CEO of Whole Foods, John Mackey, cut his salary down to $1 and donated the rest of his pay to an animal welfare nonprofit. He wrote in a letter to employees that he had "reached a place in my life where I no longer want to work for money but simply for the joy of the work itself."
In a world where one CEO costs 311 entry-level workers and gets paid in an hour more than some workers get all year, this is a welcome change. We can look to these people as examples of what we all should be—selfless, and generous. Obviously it helps that they’re all extremely rich, but the idea that they’d be willing to give up so much simply for the sake of generosity is more than admirable, it’s amazing.