Facebook CEO will donate most of his wealth

Well, if Mark Zuckerberg’s image wasn’t already bolstered enough by his recent appearance on 60 Minutes, today’s announcement might help polish it a bit more.

Zuckerberg is one of 17 of the latest billionaires to sign the Giving Pledge, a joint effort from Bill Gates and Warren Buffet to encourage wealthy individuals “to commit to giving the majority of their wealth to the philanthropic causes and charitable organizations of their choice either during their lifetime or after their death,” according to the organization’sweb site. The Wall Street Journal first reported the news early Thursday morning.

“People wait until late in their career to give back. But why wait when there is so much to be done?” said Zuckerberg, according to a press release. ”With a generation of younger folks who have thrived on the success of their companies, there is a big opportunity for many of us to give back earlier in our lifetime and see the impact of our philanthropic efforts.”

First officially announced by Gates and Buffett in June of this year, The Giving Pledge touts a list of 57 billionaires who have pledged to give a majority of their wealth away over the course of their lifetime.

Dustin Moskovitz, a co-founder of Facebook and #290 on the list with $1.4 billion, has also agreed to join Zuckerberg in signing. Other names new to the list include ex-AOL CEO Steve Case and investor Carl Icahn.Mr. Icahn ranks 24th on this year’s Forbes 400 list, at an estimated net worth of $11 billion. Zuckerberg, whose soaring second-market shares valuation of Facebook stock brings his estimated net worth to $6.9 billion, is new to this year’s Forbes 400 list at #35.  Gates and Buffettcontinue to top the list at #1 and #2, $54 billion and $45 billion, respectively.

This isn’t Zuckerberg’s first very public act of philanthropy. In late September, shortly before the release of David Fincher’s The Social Network (in which Zuckerberg is most unflatteringly portrayed), the 26-year-old announced a $100 million dollar donation to the public school system in Newark, New Jersey.

Gates’ and Buffet’s pledge isn’t a legally binding contract, but rather a gentleman’s agreement, or “a moral commitment to give,” according to the web site. The Giving Pledge specifically targets billionaires, especially those in high profile positions like Zuckerberg has been in over the recent past.

With their pledge, each billionaire is asked to write a letter explaining their decision behind making the pledge. As of this writing, Zuckerberg’s letter was not made public. Below is a letter from Oracle CEO Larry Ellison:

Many years ago, I put virtually all of my assets into a trust with the intent of giving away at least 95% of my wealth to charitable causes. I have already given hundreds of millions of dollars to medical research and education, and I will give billions more over time. Until now, I have done this giving quietly – because I have long believed that charitable giving is a personal and private matter. So why am I going public now? Warren Buffett personally asked me to write this letter because he said I would be “setting an example” and “influencing others” to give. I hope he’s right.

Looks like Mr. Buffett may have been right after all.

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