Making it increasingly harder to hate the rich--well, some of them--Bill Gates has enticed Mark Zuckerberg, the young genius who founded Facebook, to join his gathering of the filthy rich who promise to give away the majority of their wealth. Zuckerberg and AOL founder Steve Case are among 16 new tycoons to sign the Giving Pledge, says the Wall Street Journal. Also signing on is a billionaire who--like Gates during his anti-trust years--we once relished hating: Former junk-bond king and ex-con Michael ("Greed is good") Milken.
Zuckerberg, 26, worth $6.9 billion on paper, and the other newcomers bring the number of billionaire signatories to more than 50 since Gates and wife Melinda launched the pledge drive last year. Investor Warren Buffett and New York mayor Michael Bloomberg were among the first to toss in, along with Oracle founder Larry Ellison and film director George Lucas.
Those pledging, notes the Journal, are part of a broader shift in philanthropy by the rich, with successful businesspeople giving more of their money to charity far earlier than their predecessors. It's a benevolent trend that got its most public boost from Gates, who started the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation while he was still leading Microsoft. It's now the world's largest foundation.
Signatories aren't required to give any specific amounts to causes or charities, and donations aren't tracked. Those pledging lmerely agree to give away most of their dough before they die.
Of course, there are tax advantages to such donations, and most billionaires tend to give away large amounts anyway. Zuckerberg, for one, promised in September on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" to give up to $100 million to Newark public schools. "It's unclear," says the Journal, if the Giving Pledge has actually encouraged more giving.