Meg Whitman

NET WORTH: $1.95 billion

SOURCE OF WEALTH: Hewlett-Packard, eBay

FUNDING AREAS: Health, Education, Environment

OVERVIEW: It's probably fair to say that no single tech philanthropist has seen his or her record of philanthropy scrutinized to the extent that former eBay and current Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman has. According to its most recent available tax filings, her family foundation, the Griffith R. Harsh IV and Margaret Whitman Charitable Foundation has roughly $108 million in assets, and makes approximately $4.5 million in grants per year.

BACKGROUND: Whitman grew up on Long Island, and attended Princeton University, and Harvard Business School. She has worked as an executive at a number of major corporations, including Walt Disney, Dreamworks, Procter & Gamble and Hasbro, though her tenure as the President and CEO of eBay probably had the most significant impact on her personal wealth. In 2008, she stepped down to run for Governor of California, winning the Republican nomination, but failing to defeat Jerry Brown. She is currently the CEO of Hewlett Packard, a position she took in 2011. 

In 2006, she and her husband established the Griffith R. Harsh IV and Margaret C Whitman Charitable Foundation with 300,000 shares of eBay stock, which were valued at just under $10 million at the time. Whitman took a lot of heat during her 2010 gubernatorial run for what some referred to as "stinginess" as a philanthropist. Given the paucity of the record, it's not difficult to see why. To date, her largest personal donation has been to her campaign. In the midst of the campaign, she was invited by Warren Buffet to join the Giving Pledge, in which billionaires commit to giving away most of their wealth, and she declined. Her refusal to pledge led to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle noting that Whitman had invested less time and money on charity than most Silicon Valley tycoons and especially those who run for office. They noted that she apparently sits on no commissions or charitable organization boards, based on the fact that she never mentioned them on the campaign trail or in her book. 

ISSUES:

ENVIRONMENT: A few years ago, Whitman gave $1.15 million to a campaign to protect 572 acres of pristine land from development into condos and a golf course near Telluride, Colorado, but many see the gift as more for her personal benefit than for her love of the environment since the land happened to be adjacent to property owned by Whitman and her husband. It's probably a combination of the two however, since she has a track record of largely preserving the land she owns. Back in 2010, she and her husband purchased an additional 800 acres in the area, rescuing the land from a real estate developer that had planned to create a community of luxury homes, and has said she has no plans to develop the property. In 2015, Whitman joined a pool of investors in backing Bill Gates' new Breakthrough Energy Coalition, an organization looking to develop affordable methods of being sustainable. She has also given at least $700,000 to the Environmental Defense Fund. 

EDUCATION: In 2002, she donated $30 million to Princeton University, her alma mater, to establish Whitman College, a new residential college. She also served on the university's board of trustees for a time. Whitman's foundation invested $2.5 million to fund the expansion of Summit Public Schools, a charter school organization that wants to open at least 10 schools in the Bay Area of California over the next 10 years. At the same time, she pledged another $2.5 million in matching funds if her "Silicon Valley colleagues" put some money into Summit. Later that same year, the foundation made a $2 million grant to Teach for America, targeting underprivileged children in California. 

MEDICAL RESEARCH: One of the more recent large grants awarded by Whitman's Foundation was a $500,000 grant to the MIND Research Institute. She has also been a major supporter of the Pancreatic Action Network.

COMMUNITY GIVING: Each year, a handful of smaller grants, generally in the $1,000 to $25,000 range, generally go to community organizations in Menlo Park, CA and Telluride, CO, where the Whitmans reside.   

LOOKING FORWARD: Whether or not Whitman's conservationism is self-serving may not be seen for a number of years, but perhaps she will take buying land near her home to protect it from development a step further and actually donate the land to a nature conservancy or land trust. There are also some indications that Whitman may start to become more involved in funding charter schools. 

CONTACT:

  • Griffith R. Harsh IV and Margaret C Whitman Charitable Foundation, P.O. Box 860, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866-0860, 518-886-4207. Administered by the Ayco Company.

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