A Yoga Billionaire's Approach to Education Philanthropy

Earlier this year, Third Point founder Daniel Loeb was a panelist at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank that IP has written about before. The honorable Dali Lama was in attendance that night, and the topic was "moral free enterprise."

When hedge-fund billionaire Loeb stepped to the podium, he said that while he believed financial markets help make the world a better place, there's also room for improvement: "Folks are left behind." One of the most effective avenues to help bridge that gap, Loeb believes, is education.

See IP's full profile of Daniel Loeb

It's also probably worth mentioning that Loeb's wife Margaret is a NYU School of Social Work graduate and a former yoga instructor. Loeb himself has been practicing rigorous Ashtanga yoga for many years. He even went to India for a month, where he learned the value of meditation. It appears even to guide his business decisions and reportedly motivated him to donate to a charter school in the Bronx.

Yes, all of this is very reminiscent of Ray Dalio, whom I've written about before. 

Loeb is the chairman of Success Academy Charter Network in Brooklyn, and serves on the board of StudentsFirstNY, the New York branch of the national ed reform group he co-founded with Michelle Rhee. Also on the board at StudentsFirstNY are fellow billionaires Carl Icahn and Paul Tudor Jones, who are also known for their education philanthropy.

Loeb has also been a trustee at Prep for Prep since 2004. The outfit has received around $1.5 million from the foundation over the years and appears to be one of the foundation's biggest benificiaries, along with Success Academy Charter Schools, which received nearly $800,000 in 2012 alone.

In recent years, smaller sums of money have also gone to KIPP, Harlem Children's Zone, iMentor and Boys and Girls Harbor. Apart from Prep for Prep, one of the highest annual gifts from the foundation (nearly $19,000 in 2012) went to Bent on Learning, an education advocacy outfit in New York that helps empower kids through yoga. 

Besides charters, the foundation has been a steady funder of Ethical Culture Fieldston School, from which Margaret graduated in 1990, and where she currently serves as a trustee. The foundation has also given to Brown, Margaret's alma mater, and has an endowed scholarship at Columbia, Loeb's alma mater. 

Loeb has also given over a million to the New York City anti-poverty outfit Robin Hood Foundation, which counts charter school operation among its programs.

Compared to his fortune, Loeb's philanthropy is modest. At a young 52, Loeb is still very much engaged in business. But with the board memberships and the personal conviction behind his philanthropy—not to mention $2.3 billion—this is a guy to watch closely for larger giving down the line.