NET WORTH: $15.7 billion
SOURCE OF WEALTH: Icahn & Co., securities and investment
FUNDING AREAS: Education, health care, community development, and arts and culture
OVERVIEW: Much of Carl Icahn's philanthropy has stayed close to home, going to build charter schools and homeless shelters in his native New York City and providing significant support to one of its major hospitals and medical schools. In addition to the Carl C. Icahn Foundation, he created the Foundation for a Greater Opportunity and the Children's Rescue Fund. He sits on the boards of all three foundations, as does his wife Gail.
BACKGROUND: Icahn was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Far Rockaway, Queens. He graduated from Princeton in 1957 and went to NYU to study medicine, but he dropped out before he finished to join the army. In 1961, he started working on Wall Street as a stockbroker, and in 1968 he formed his own company, focusing on risk arbitrage and options trading. He eventually became known for taking substantial or controlling positions in companies, at times through hostile takeovers that ultimately resulted in breaking down the company and selling off the assets.
EDUCATION: Icahn is a major supporter of the charter school movement. Through his Foundation for a Greater Opportunity, he has founded seven charter schools in the Bronx. The schools are modeled after studies showing that small classes in early grades have long-lasting benefits, and they have outperformed neighborhood schools in statewide tests by about 37%. "I take the same approach to education as I do to corporate boards," Icahn says, stressing his approach of motivating teachers and principals with bonuses for good performance, reducing waste while increasing accountability, and not micromanaging.
Icahn has also created the Icahn Scholars Program at the prestigious New England prep school Choate Rosemary Hall, providing 10 four-year scholarships valued at $160,000 each to promising young students each year. He is a major donor to his alma mater and has given tens of millions of dollars in support of Princeton University's Institute for Integrated Genomics.
HEALTH: In the past several years, Icahn has donated more than $200 million to Mount Sinai Hospital and School of Medicine in New York. Due to his generosity, the school has been renamed Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. It also houses the Icahn Institute for Genomics and Multiscale Biology. Recent sums have also gone to Yeshiva University's Albert Einstein School of Medicine, with the school receiving around $1 million per year between 2011 and 2013.
COMMUNITY: Through the Children's Rescue Fund, Carl and his wife, Gail, established the 65-unit Icahn House in the Bronx, which assists with the transition of homeless single women and their families, and the Icahn House East and Icahn House West, which are homeless shelters in New York City. While the Icahn Foundation does not limit grant applications geographically, the bulk of Icahn's known giving has been directed toward organizations in the New York City area.
OTHER: Recently, Icahn donated $500,000 to a variety of veterans groups through the Trump Foundation.
LOOKING FORWARD: As part of the Giving Pledge, Icahn has committed to giving away at least half of his wealth, and although he has increased his giving in recent years, he's still got plenty of room to grow. It will be interesting to see if he expands his charter school model to areas outside the Bronx, or perhaps looks at other ways to have an impact in education. Although it seems that education will continue to be his main focus, he may also look for other arenas where a more corporate model could transform how we address critical social issues.