Ten Philanthropists From Finance to Watch in 2015

The last five years have seen one of the strongest bull markets in history. Familiar leaders in finance, like Warren Buffett, are wealthier than ever, while large, new fortunes are emerging. All this new wealth is ushering in a golden age of finance philanthropy, one that we track closely here at Inside Philanthropy. (See our Wall Street Donors guide.)

Earlier this year, we released a list of "The 18 Most Generous Most Generous Philanthropists in Finance." Here, we look ahead to 2015, and examine some of Wall Street philanthropists we think stand above the rest as the most likely to make waves in coming year.

1. Steve Cohen

With his legal troubles seemingly behind him, Cohen and his wife Alexandra have been ramping up their giving, with money flowing for education, healthcare, and the arts. The Cohens were philanthropists long before federal investigators began digging into Cohen's hedge fund, but nowas one of the most disgraced men in finance since the days of Boesky and MilkenCohen has an extra reason for high-profile giving. Milken famously remade himself through philanthropy, and Cohen also has a good shot at overhauling his image. But to do that, he'll have to go beyond traditional check writing and do something bigger, like Milken did. See IP Profile

2. Ray Dalio

The hedge fund king and his wife Barbara have been stashing a growing pile of money in the Dalio Foundation, and giving out so many grants every year—and to such a wide array of causes—that it seems inevitable that they'll soon set up a larger, more professional operation. Maybe 2015 will be the year they take things to the next level. Dalio is worth $15 billion, and he and Barbara have signed the Giving Pledge. So the sooner they step things up, the better chance they'll have of making a dent in giving away their fortune. See IP Profile

3. Stanley Druckenmiller

Retired hedge fund manager Druckenmiller and his wife Fiona have amassed around $1 billion in their foundation, and their annual giving rose to $73 million in 2013. We don't yet have figures from last year, but if the trajectory remains upward, the Druckenmiller Foundation is now among the larger funders in the U.S. by giving. The the couple's wide interests include education, healthcare, and the environment. See IP Profile.

4. Charles Munger

Warren Buffett’s second in command is on a mission to give away his money, saying that “there’s nothing as insignificant as an extra $2 billion to an old man.” After donations of $110 million to the University of Michigan and nearly $40 million to the Huntington library in 2013, he was back at it again last year, making a $65 million contribution to the University of California Santa Barbara, which will be used to create a residence and conference center for the program that brings visiting physicists to UCSB. We're expecting to see more big gifts in 2015 as Munger continues to unload his extra cash. See IP Profile. 

5. David Rubenstein

If David Rubenstein could singlehandedly preserve all our nation’s historic treasures, he probably would. His 2014 gifts included a $12.35 million donation to restore the Arlington House and Robert E. Lee Memorial, $5.4 million for the renovation of the Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery, and most recently, a $10 million donation to Montpelier to restore James Madison’s home. Outside this "patriotic philanthropy," Rubenstein also made his third major gift to the University of Chicago in recent years, this time to build the David M. Rubenstein Forum, which will host academic conferences, workshops, lectures, meetings, ceremonies and other types of gatherings. Given the way his philanthropy has accelerated since signing the Giving Pledge in 2010, we’ll probably be hearing more from him in 2015. See IP Profile. 

6. C. Frederick Taylor

Along with his TGS hedge fund partners Andrew Schectel and David Gelbaum, Taylor was unmasked as one of the “$13 Billion Mystery Angels” last year. While Gelbaum actually disclosed most of his giving, which has amounted to more than $1 billion, and Schechtel has poured more than $700 million into finding a cure for Huntington’s disease, where Taylor’s money is going is much less clear. What we do know is that he’s got a split-interest charitable trust worth nearly $5 billion, and has put at least $800 million into a charitable fund with Vanguard. It's anyone's guess how much has actually found its way to charity and which charities are getting support. With more people asking where all that money is going, however, maybe we’ll start to see Taylor go public with his giving. 

7. Michael Bloomberg

Bloomberg is back running his financial information and media company, but his foundation has also been giving away huge amounts of money. Just this year, Bloomberg Philanthropies launched or expanded programs in climate change, road safety, higher education, marine conservation, the arts, and good governance. We're betting that more big initiatives lie ahead in 2015 as Bloomberg tries to give away a fortune that now stands at $34 billion. See IP's Profile.

8. Ken Griffin

Griffin made headlines in 2014 with his $150 million donation to his alma mater, Harvard, the largest single gift in the university’s history. He and his wife Anne have also been known to support health and education more broadly, particularly in the Chicago area, but with the recent announcement of their pending divorce, it seems likely the Ken and Anne Griffin Foundation, which has distributed hundreds of millions over the last 15 years, will be closing its doors. With an estimated personal fortune of $5.5 billion, however, Griffin certainly isn’t done giving, so once the dust settles we may see a new era of Griffin philanthropy. See IP Profile. 

9. David Rockefeller

The 99-year-old David Rockefeller has already bequeathed at least $575 million to various organizations, mostly educational and arts-related. He's still got a couple billion sitting on the sidelines, however, and seems to like to use his birthday as an occassion to make major charitable announcements. With his 100th birthday coming up in June, there's a decent chance we could be hearing about some very large gifts. See IP Profile. 

10. Warren Buffett

Everyone knows that Buffett pledged the bulk of his wealth to the Gates Foundation nearly a decade ago. But Buffett is far wealthier now than he was then, thanks to a rise in the value of Berkshire Hathaway stock. (His fortune now stands at $72 billion.) What this means is that the value of the portion of Buffett's fortune that is not going to Gates is also far larger than it was previously. And while Buffett has increased the size of his pledge to the foundations run by his three children, billions have yet been earmarked. Perhaps 2015 will be the year when we fully learn how one of the greatest fortunes ever assembled will be given away. See IP Profile.


Beyond the ten billionaires listed above, there are plenty of other financier philanthropists worth watching closely this year. These include Bill AckmanJulian Robertson, and Jim Simons, all of whom have been steadily ramping up their charitable giving for years, and building sizeable foundations in the process.

Another is Carl Icahn, who prefers a more direct style of giving that makes his charity a bit harder to nail down, but whose comments on philanthropy and commitment to give away at least half his $20 billion fortune make one think that he's got to make some pretty significant moves soon. We'll be watching. 

See more finance profiles IP's guide to Wall Street Donors.