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20 Jan 2020, Edition - 1651, Monday

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Mark Zuckerberg overtakes Warren Buffet to emerge world’s third-richest man with $81.6 bn net worth


Facebook’s stock has not only recovered from the hammering it took in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal earlier this year, but spiked 2.4 per cent to hit an all-time high on Friday. And in the bargain, it has propelled its co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg into the Top 3 list of billionaires. He is now the world’s third-richest man after Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.

According to Bloomberg, this is the first time that the three wealthiest people on the ranking made their fortunes from technology, further solidifying the sector’s USP as the most robust creator of wealth. In fact, technology fortunes make up about a fifth of the more than $5 trillion in wealth tracked by the Bloomberg index, more than any other sector.

However, there is another reason why Zuckerberg was able to overtake Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway in the rankings – the 34-year-old now boasts a net worth of $81.6 billion, about $373 million more than Buffett. The Oracle of Omaha, as the famed investor is often called, is also the most generous philanthropist in the world. Last September, The Chronicle of Philanthropy analysed that Buffett had given away more than $46 billion since 2000, or a whopping 71 per cent of his fortune. According to an Inc 42 report, Buffett has given Berkshire Hathaway stock now worth more than $50 billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation alone. Gates, incidentally, is the world’s second most charitable billionaire, having donated 22 percent of his wealth since 2000.

In comparison, according to the portal, Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, appear to have devoted well under $10 billion so far to to philanthropy. What’s more, some of the fortune they have given away went to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, (CZI), which is a limited liability company, not a foundation. The idea behind this structure reportedly is to allow the couple to use their money either for charitable donations or to fund for-profit organizations and startups that fulfil a charitable goal.

For instance, in 2016, CZI led the $24 million series B funding for Andela, a startup that trains software developers in Africa with n aim to bridge the divide between the U.S and African tech sectors.

“In the next 10 years, there will be 1.3M software development jobs created and only 400,000 domestic computer science graduates, to fill them. Africa, meanwhile, is home to the largest untapped talent pool and seven of the 10 fastest growing internet populations in the world,” says Andela’s website. The mission is unarguably noble, but if the company succeeds, CZI stands to rake in huge profits as an investor.

Nonetheless, Zuckerberg has big plans in the philanthropy space so he may well overtake Buffet here, too. Three years ago, he and Chan pledged to give away 99 per cent of their fortune in their lifetimes. Inc 42 claims that at Facebook’s current stock price, they have at least $70 billion to go.

Where does the world’s richest man, Bezos, feature in terms of charity? He is reportedly the most miserly of billionaires having given away less than $100 million of his $141.9 billion fortune.

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