February 1, 2013

Mayor Bloomberg's Largesse

Mayor Bloomberg's Largesse

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is now officially the most generous living donor to the field of education in the United States. Last week, the Mayor and Bloomberg News magnate stepped out from behind the curtain of quiet philanthropy to announce a $350 million gift to Johns Hopkins University, his alma mater. This extraordinary gesture brings Mr. Bloomberg’s total contributions to Johns Hopkins to $1.1 billion to date. And he’s not finished yet.

Mayor Bloomberg is reportedly worth in excess of $25 billion, which puts him in the top 1% of the 1%. He has committed to donating his entire fortune during his lifetime, as a member of the Giving Pledge, an initiative created for that noble purpose by Warren Buffet and Bill and Melinda Gates. It’s a staggering proposition that is almost impossible to truly visualize.

Try to imagine the incredible good that Mr. Bloomberg and his fellow billionaires can do with that much money. More of those lucky few are stepping up to the challenge. Patrice Motsepe, founder and executive chairman of African Rainbow Minerals and South Africa’s first black billionaire, became the first African to join the Giving Pledge fraternity this week. He plans to use his contribution for education and health programs in his country.

People like Motsepe and Bloomberg have the ability to truly impact not only the health and well-being of the people served by the causes they champion, but also to help shape the future for generations to come. Who knows what discoveries may come out of the Johns Hopkins programs funded by the Mayor’s gift, or others like it? It is a fascinating as well as a heroic proposition to contemplate.

But Bloomberg is not the only hero in his philanthropic universe. The true heroes are the Johns Hopkins faculty and administrators who must have made such an impression on young Michael Bloomberg. In helping to shape the values of the man he would become, these people inspired his connection, loyalty and indebtedness to the institution, which many decades later has resulted in his unprecedented generosity.

Who doesn’t remember the words of a teacher or the kindness of a neighbor from our early lives? We should all be cognizant of the lasting impact we have on those around us, knowingly or unknowingly.

Mayor Bloomberg’s ability to expand the definition of generosity is not the result of happenstance. He planned for it. Mr. Bloomberg spent his life building a company that is a modern marvel of success, which he parlayed into one of the most influential elected offices in the country, where his focus is on public health. Love him or hate him, even his political enemies would concede that Bloomberg is a man of conviction and big thinking.

At Marcum, we work with clients every day who have achieved great success on their own terms.  They may not have amassed the personal wealth to rival Mayor Bloomberg, but they have spent their lives working toward a vision that has paid handsome dividends. Carefully, thoughtfully managing their financial assets for the present and future benefit of their families, as well as the causes that matter to them, is their ultimate legacy. We are honored to play a part in helping these clients make the decisions and implement the strategies to ensure that the legacy is fulfilled.

Mayor Bloomberg provides a model. His largesse is a particularly vivid example of people doing the right thing just for the sake of doing the right thing, paying off in ways they never could have anticipated or imagined. Who would have thought a 20-year-old Michael Bloomberg would someday be worth $25 billion? I don’t think they even thought in terms of billions back in the 1960’s.

Who knows? At any college or university in this country today, an 18-21 year old future Bloomberg, Gates or Buffet might be on his or her way to becoming a trillionaire.  Just think of what could be accomplished with that.