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The Giving Pledge gathers momentum with support of family business leaders

Some high-profile family business leaders have become the latest names to join the Giving Pledge – an initiative where billionaires promise publicly to give at least half their wealth to charity over the course of their lifetime.
Azim Premji at the World Economic Forum in 2009
© Monik Flueckiger/ World Economic Forum

Some high-profile family business leaders have become the latest names to join the Giving Pledge – an initiative where billionaires promise publicly to give at least half their wealth to charity over the course of their lifetime.

British entrepreneur Richard Branson – founder of Virgin – and his wife Joan have signed the pledge, along with Azim Premji – the second-gen chairman of Indian software company Wipro. They are among 12 billionaires who have joined the initiative this year.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda founded the Giving Pledge in 2010. They initially focused on recruiting billionaires from the US, but have expanded their efforts to include ultra-wealthy individuals from all over the world.

After signing up to the pledge, the Bransons said in a statement: "'Stuff' really is not what brings happiness. Family, friends, good health and the satisfaction that comes from making a positive difference are what really matters.

"Happily our children, who will be our principal heirs, agree with [us] on this. As and when we take monies out of the Virgin Group of companies the majority of it will be invested in entrepreneurial approaches to help make a difference in the world."

Branson is worth $4.2 billion (€3.2 billion), according to Forbes. Joan and Richard Branson's daughter, 31-year old Holly, is a qualified doctor and has an active role in Virgin, particularly in its health subsidiary Virgin Care.

Premji developed Wipro – founded by his father – into one of India's most successful software companies. He has a personal fortune of $12.2 billion, according to Forbes.

He said in the statement: "I strongly believe that those of us who are privileged to have wealth, should contribute significantly to try and create a better world for the millions who are far less privileged. I will continue to act on this belief."

Premji's eldest son Rishad is chief strategy officer at Wipro. Premji's younger son Tariq is involved in the Azim Premji Foundation.

Australian mining magnate Andrew Forrest – better known as Twiggy – and his wife Nicola, Ukranian business man Victor Pinchuk, and South African minerals tycoon Patrice Motsepe and his wife Precious are also on the list of new signatories to the Giving Pledge – pushing its total to 105.

Signatories donate their fortunes to charities of their choice, rather than all the cash being channelled to a specific cause. The Giving Pledge states on its website the pledge is a "moral commitment to give" rather than a legal contract.

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