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The 18 Most Generous Philanthropists in Finance

08/25/2014 08:43 pm ET | Updated Oct 25, 2014

America has been living through a Second Gilded Age, and some of today's biggest fortunes have emerged from finance, where hedge fund managers and private equity titans score paydays that boggle the mind.

Some of these guys (and yes, they're pretty much all guys) aren't just making tons of money; they're also giving away vast sums. But who's giving away how much, and exactly how generous they are with their wealth, isn't always so easy to figure out.

Inside Philanthropy recently decided to dig into this subject, with editor Michael Gentilucci taking the lead. In making this list, we didn't want to focus strictly on who was giving the most money away, but rather who is giving away the most relative to their net worth.

To develop the list, Mike drew on IP's extensive coverage of giving by finance leaders through our Wall Street Wallets blog and related guide to top finance donors, as well as a wide range of our sources.

Before we begin our countdown of finance philanthropists to the most generous of them all, a few caveats are in order.

First, it's hard to ever be sure how much money somebody has or how much they are giving away, and it's particularly easy for anyone to keep their giving a secret by using donor-advised funds or simply making direct gifts that don't go through a foundation and aren't subject to public reporting.

So while we've worked hard on our list of the most generous Wall Street philanthropists, it's entirely possible that we missed some big givers or significantly underestimated the giving of some of those on the list.

Second, even if you know a person's net worth, and have a pretty comprehensive accounting of their charitable activities, calculating relative generosity is still complicated because great fortunes can sometimes fluctuate wildly. A billionaire may give away a big chunk of his or her fortune, only to see what's left grow by new leaps and bounds, making their earlier generosity seem less substantial. Or, they may give big, and then lose much of the rest, making their philanthropic contributions an even bigger sacrifice of personal wealth in retrospect.

You can read the full article at Inside Philanthropy. Below is an abbreviated version.

18. David Rubenstein

A self-described "patriotic philanthropist," Rubenstein has been a major contributor to the National Archives, the Kennedy Center, the Lincoln Center, the National Zoo, the National Gallery of Art, the White House Historical Association, Mt. Vernon, and the Smithsonian, among others. More

17. Bill Ackman

Since creating the Pershing Square Foundation in 2006, Ackman has given away more than $235 million to a variety of causes -- including global development, health, arts and culture, human rights, and Jewish organizations. More

16. Charles Munger

Warren Buffett's right hand man has made total lifetime contributions of well over $250 million and all indications are that he plans to keep giving big. More

15. Michael Bloomberg

Mike Bloomberg made his fortune in information and media, but we count him as a finance guy given his Wall Street roots and his company's core focus on financial data. Bloomberg gave away over $450 million last year and will likely give away even more this year. More

14. George Kaiser

The Bank of Oklahoma owner has donated easily a quarter billion dollars to education, mostly to colleges in Oklahoma. With a current net worth of $10 billion, look for even bigger philanthropy by Kaiser in coming years. More

13. John Arnold

Arnold, who is only 40, closed his hedge fund in 2012 so and his wife Laura could focus full time on philanthropy. The couple has already funneled major assets to their foundation, which ranks among the 60 largest foundations in the U.S. More

12 & 11. Lowell & Michael Milken

Ever since the insider trading scandal in the late 1980s that ultimately sent Michael to jail, the Milken brothers have had a lot of time to focus on philanthropy and their total lifetime giving is over $1 billion. More

10. David Rockefeller

At 99, Rockefeller has given over a billion dollars to charity, and with a $2.8 billion net worth, is set to give him more through bequests. More

9. Stanley Druckenmiller

The former Chairman and President of Duquesne Capital has a foundation that now holds approximately $820 million in assets, and has given away more than $40 million per year the last several years. More

8. Warren Buffett

The Oracle of Omaha has famously pledged to give away 99 percent of his fortune, which currently stands at approximately $65 billion, to charity. He's already given billions to the Gates Foundation and the foundations run by his three kids. More

7. George Soros

Soros is a great example of a finance guy who's been making money faster than he can give it way. His umbrella organization, the Open Society Foundations, has given away $11 billion in the past 30 years, and last year alone gave out $873 million. But Soros is still worth $23 billion. More

6. Julian Robertson

Since starting the Robertson Foundation in 1996, the retired hedge fund manager has donated over $1 billion to charitable causes, and has been further ramping things up in recent years, including big money for education and the environment. More

5. Pete Peterson

Peterson scored a huge pay day in 2008 when he sold his shares in the private equity firm he co-founded, The Blackstone Group, for $1.85 billion. He's since sunk part of that fortune into a foundation focused on fiscal issues. More

4. Sandy Weill

The American Express and Citigroup executive has given more than $900 million to charity over the course of his career, mostly to health and education-related causes. About half of that has gone to endow the Weill Cornell Medical College. More

3. Denny Sanford

Sanford has given away over much of his credit card fortune and says he plans to "die broke" rather than leave a legacy foundation. He gave away more than $130 million in 2013 alone. More

2. Herbert Sandler

When the former Golden West co-CEO sold his banking business, he and wife endowed a foundation that has now made grants in excess of $650 million, helping create several new organizations., including the Center for American Progress and ProPublica. More

1. David Gelbaum

This low profile hedge fund winner has given away much of his fortune, or over $1 billion. Most of the money has gone to protect the environment and help veterans. More

***

There are plenty more top finance leaders who could have made the list, but didn't because we couldn't obtain enough hard information about their giving, their net worth, or both. Others may have simply escaped our notice, which shouldn't be surprising given the number of finance types that have amassed large fortunes -- particularly those who haven't made the Forbes list, but still have enormous wealth. Compiling lists like this is more of an art than a science.

See the full article at Inside Philanthropy.

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