NET WORTH: $5.1 billion
SOURCE OF WEALTH: Cofounder & Co-CEO, Kohlberg Kravis and Roberts
FUNDING AREAS: Education, Poverty, Bay Area Community, Animals and Environment
OVERVIEW: Billionaire George Roberts might not be as prominent in philanthropy as his cousin and business partner Henry Kravis, but he's been a strong funder of his alma maters, and has also steadily supported local Bay Area outfits. Roberts also runs a San Francisco venture philanthropy nonprofit called REDF, which creates opportunities for homeless and low-income individuals to move out of poverty.
BACKGROUND: George Roberts was born into a Jewish family in Houston, Texas. He attended Culver Military Academy in Indiana before going to Claremont McKenna College in suburban Los Angeles. Roberts went on attend University of California's Hastings College of Law, from where he graduated in 1969. Roberts worked for the firm Bear Stearns in the late 1960s and early 1970s, making partner at just age 29. Also working at Bear Stearns at the time were Jerome Kohlberg Jr., and Henry Kravis. In 1976, the trio went off on their own and founded Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR).
EDUCATION: Just like his cousin Henry Kravis, Roberts is a steady funder of all of the schools he's attended. Claremont McKenna College, where he serves as a trustee, has received millions over the years. In 2012 alone, Roberts gave $50 million to Claremont McKenna. What's more, Roberts set up a matching gift program called the Roberts Challenge at Claremont McKenna. At least one of Roberts' sons also went to Claremont McKenna, which helps explain the strong support.
Roberts has also been a strong funder of Culver Academies, a group of prep schools and summer camps in Culver, Indiana. Roberts himself attended Culver Military Academy, and in recent years Roberts has funded the Culver Educational Foundation, and Culver Academies.
Apart from his alma maters, Roberts has recently supported Sacred Heart Schools Atherton, Year Up Bay Area, Teach For America (where his wife Linnea sits on the board), and New Visions for Public Schools. Modest sums have also gone to KIPP Bay Area Schools and to military academies such as Oakland Military Institute, and Naval Postgraduate School Foundation. Money has also gone to the Oakland Schools Foundation.
Roberts' other alma mater, UC Hastings College of Law, has received modest sums. UCSF also received received support.
POVERTY: In the Bay Area, outfits such as SF Food Bank, and the Tipping Point Community have received modest support in recent years. Roberts' largest sums in this area are going to REDF, which receives a few million annually from the Roberts Foundation. Since 1997, REDF has "provided seed and growth capital and specialized advisory services to over 100 social enterprises in California, which have earned and reinvested in their businesses more than $227 million in revenue and employed 18,000 people, helping spending for government programs go further while improving lives and communities." REDF has supported places like The Cara Program, which "prepares and inspires motivated individuals to break the cycles of homelessness and poverty;" and Central City Concern (CCC), an "affordable housing and health provider based in Portland, Oregon." Historically REDF has focused on California, but is now expanding its work nationally.
ANIMALS & ENVIRONMENT: Roberts money also finds its way to animal and environmental causes. Grantees have included Ark Watch Foundation, whose mission is to "improve the welfare of animals in need within the U.S. and Canada"; Del Monte Forest Conservancy; Eagle Eye Sanctuary Foundation; and Environmental Defense Fund. Some of this philanthropy might be fueled by Roberts' first wife, Leanne, who was a prominent board member of the San Francisco SPCA. Robert and Leanne's son, Eric, who also graduated from CMC, assumed the board seat occupied by Leanne at the SF SPCA. In 2009, the SF SPCA opened the Leanne B. Roberts Animal Care Center.
BAY AREA COMMUNITY: In arts and culture, Roberts has supported outfits such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Opera, and the SF Ballet. Roberts' wife sits on the board at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. In health, recent sums have gone to the UCSF Cancer Center.
CONSERVATIVE POLICY: Roberts has given large sums to the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.
LOOKING FORWARD: George Roberts is a serious and sophisticated philanthropist who's been giving away his money for decades—and yet has barely scratched the surface of his huge fortune. But he's now in his 70s, and our bet is that he'll start notably ramp up his giving at some point in coming years.
The Roberts Foundation
2755 Campus Drive, 240
San Mateo, CA 94403