Veteran American entrepreneur Chuck Feeney has signed the papers to dissolve his Atlantic Philanthropies foundation that provided more than $8 billion (€6.8 billion) in grants over the past 38 years.
This included $1.3 billion to projects in the Republic and $570 million to projects in Northern Ireland.
Set up in 1982 to disburse much of Mr Feeney’s wealth, Atlantic Philanthropies made 6,500 grants over the period, with its last financial commitment made at the end of 2016. It has been in wind-up mode for a number of years.
Mr Feeney received a number of tributes from political leaders for his philanthropy over the past four decades. Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the US House of Representatives, congratulated him on the “extraordinary contributions” made to “build a brighter, more just ad equal future for all”.
“You have been instrumental in providing the significant resources necessary to advance the common good and support vulnerable communities and pioneering organisation at home and abroad,” she said in letter to the entrepreneur, who made his fortune in duty free shopping.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: “Atlantic Philanthropies has had a truly remarkable impact in Ireland over the past four decades. Chuck Feeney’s far-sighted vision, extraordinary generosity and selfless leadership has transformed the lives of many thousands of Irish people, young and old alike.
“In particular, its transformational impact on higher education and research… has left a powerful legacy to the nation and generations to come.”
In the Republic, The University of Limerick Foundation received the highest grant aid at $181.5 million, followed by the Trinity Foundation at $162.1 million, Dublin City University Education Trust at $128.2 million, Cork University Foundation at $91.2 million, and Galway University Foundation at $79.5 million.
In 1984, Mr Feeney secretly transferred his shareholding in Duty Free Shoppers to The Atlantic Foundation, which later became The Atlantic Philanthropies. The foundation has since provided funding for projects in Australia, Bermuda, Cuba, Ireland, South Africa, the United States and Vietnam.
“If you give while living, the money goes to work quickly, everyone gets to see the action and the results, that’s what we’re all about”, Mr Feeney explained some years ago.