- The Washington Times - Monday, June 26, 2006

OMAHA, Neb. — Billionaire investor Warren Buffett announced plans yesterday to give the bulk of his roughly $42 billion fortune to five foundations — mostly to Bill Gates’ foundation — in annual gifts of stock starting next month.

The decision represents a stark reversal for the world’s second-richest man, who for years had said his wealth would be pledged to philanthropies after his death.

His vast holdings of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. stock had been expected to go largely to the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, begun by his wife. Her foundation has given millions of dollars to hospitals, universities and teachers, as well as to Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights groups.

Instead, the 75-year-old chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway plans to give the largest contribution to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, established by Mr. Buffett’s friend and Berkshire board member Mr. Gates.

Mr. Buffett’s gift will increase the resources of the Gates Foundation, which is already the world’s largest philanthropy with assets of about $29.1 billion.

Calls to Berkshire Hathaway’s offices were not returned yesterday, but letters outlining the gifts were posted on the company’s Web site. Fortune magazine reported on Mr. Buffett’s decision earlier.

The Gateses issued a joint statement applauding Mr. Buffett’s decision.

“We are awed by our friend Warren Buffett’s decision to use his fortune to address the world’s most challenging inequities, and we are humbled that he has chosen to direct a large portion of it to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,” they said.

Over time, Buffett plans to give away 12.05 million Class B shares of Berkshire Hathaway stock to the foundations, but he will have to convert some of his 498,320 Class A shares to complete the gifts. One Class A share, which sold for $92,100 Friday, can be converted into 30 Class B shares, which sold for $3,071 Friday on the New York Stock Exchange.

The gifts would be worth nearly $37 billion at Friday’s Class A share prices.

Mr. Buffett said he plans to earmark 10 million B shares for the Gates Foundation, 1 million B shares for the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, named in honor of his late wife, and 350,000 shares for the three foundations run by each of his children.

Mr. Buffett plans to give each foundation 5 percent of his total pledge each year in July.

His health has been the subject of speculation. He has said a succession plan is in place at Berkshire but refuses to name a successor.

In the letters, Mr. Buffett wrote, “My doctor tells me that I am in excellent health, and I certainly feel that I am.”

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