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Philanthropy Press - The Giving Pledge

EasyJet founder pledges to give half of his £2bn fortune to charity


EasyJet founder, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, has promised to give more than half of his £2bn fortune to charity after he was “inspired” by a phone call with Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates.


Haji-Ioannou said he had signed up to the Giving Pledge, an organisation founded by Gates and fellow billionaire Warren Buffett, which asks the world’s wealthiest people to give away the majority of their money.


The Cypriot-born entrepreneur, was estimated to be worth £1.95bn in the latest Sunday Times rich list. He is expected to give away about £1bn of that, some of it in cash during his lifetime and the remainder by selling assets through the terms of his will according to the Guardian.


Haji-Ioannou joins a host of billionaires who have made the pledge, whose British contingent includes the Virgin Group founder, Sir Richard Branson, Ann Gloag, the transport group Stagecoach’s co-founder, and Lord Sainsbury, whose family started the supermarket chain.


In a letter accompanying his pledge, Haji-Ioannou said: “Allow me to start by saying that I am not sure I am a worthy member of this group of extraordinary individuals. I consider that I have been lucky in life at least twice,” he said.


“I inherited some wealth from my father, a self-made Greek-Cypriot shipping magnate, and then I was lucky enough to have been at the right place at the right time to start a business that did much better than I ever could have hoped.”


Haji-Ioannou, who turned 50 this year, said he would channel his wealth through his philanthropic foundation, which funds projects in places where he has lived and worked. These include scholarships to the London School of Economics and City University and annual donations to the Red Cross and World Wildlife Fund. Other charitable projects include food donations in Greece and projects to reconcile differences between Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots in the country of his birth. He also funds unspecified projects in the tax haven of Monaco, where he lives.


“I guess my belief is that nobody has a monopoly on good charitable ideas and the problems in our world will never all go away,” he said. “So we have to keep helping, within our means.”