Billionaires: MacKenzie Scott donated $2.1bn in 2023

In our fortnightly round-up of the world’s super wealthy, Elon Musk is planning a new university in Texas and Marc Benioff’s cash pile grows as he sells off Salesforce shares

MacKenzie Scott has promised to give away more than half of her wealth. AP
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MacKenzie Scott

Billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott has donated $2.1 billion in the past year, bringing her total reported giving to more than $16 billion since 2019.

While previous announcements have included detailed essays about the reasons for her donations, Ms Scott offered only a three-sentence post titled, “Giving Update this year”.

“Excited to call attention to these 360 outstanding organisations, every one of whom could use more allies,” she said in the post.

“Inspired by all the ways people work together to offer each other goodwill and support.”

The gifts include three donations of $25 million to affordable housing non-profit Mercy Housing, reproductive care organisation Upstream USA and youth training group Year Up, according to her Yield Giving website.

It is not known if those are the largest donations made in the past year as the database of gifts on the website withheld the amount donated to more than 100 of the recipients throughout 2023, with the explanation, “Disclosure delayed for benefit of recipient”.

World's wealthiest women in 2023 – in pictures

The gifts were consistent with Ms Scott's focus on economic security, education, equity and health, although there were many in this round that went to organisations that describe themselves as working on health.

Ms Scott, who has a net worth of $34.8 billion and is the world's 39th richest person, also supported several organisations that work on caste equity.

As in previous years, a significant portion of Ms Scott's donations in 2023 focused on housing organisations, including community land trusts, advocates for affordable housing and legal aid societies, which often represent tenants among other clients.

Ms Scott declines to comment on her donations, which often are the largest a non-profit group has received, beyond blog posts, now published on her website, which she launched last December.

For the first time, in March, she opened an application process to receive funding, promising to grant $1 million to 250 organisations. About 6,300 non-profit groups applied, according to Lever for Change, the organisation overseeing the application process, which has said it will announce the winners early next year.

Ms Scott has promised to give away more than half of her wealth, which comes largely from her divorce from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

Ms Scott’s giving is “unprecedented” because she provides “meaningfully sized” donations to groups without any restrictions, according to a Centre for Effective Philanthropy report released last month.

Elon Musk

Elon Musk, who moved to Texas during the pandemic, is planning to start a university in Austin, according to tax filings for the billionaire’s latest charity called The Foundation.

The new institution, seeded with a roughly $100 million gift from Mr Musk, will start with a Stem-focused primary and secondary school.

Once up and running, it “intends ultimately to expand its operations to create a university dedicated to education at the highest levels”, according to an application to the Internal Revenue Service for tax-exempt status obtained by Bloomberg.

The university will employ “experienced faculty” and feature a traditional curriculum “alongside hands-on learning experience including simulations, case studies, fabrication/design projects and labs”, according to the application, which was filed in October 2022 and approved in March.

This is not the first time Mr Musk, 52, has started a school or expressed interest in opening a university.

About a decade ago, the Tesla chief executive created Ad Astra on SpaceX’s California campus for five of his children and a few children of his space company’s employees. When Mr Musk moved to Texas in 2020, the school also moved.

Mr Musk’s new Stem school was expecting an initial class of 50 and aimed to hire an executive director, teacher and administrator, the application said.

Foundation trustees include Jared Birchall, head of Mr Musk’s family office; Steven Chidester, a tax lawyer at Withersworldwide; and Ronald Gong and Teresa Holland, who work at the Catalyst Family Office in California.

The billionaire sent $2.2 billion worth of Tesla stock to his Musk Foundation last year.

Along with donating about $100 million to seed his newest charity, it also made gifts to disaster relief non-profit World Central Kitchen, the Khan Academy and a donor-advised fund at Fidelity Charitable, according to its most recent tax forms.

Mr Musk, the world’s richest person with a net worth of $222 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, is also creating his own town outside Austin, with recreational amenities, a school and subsidised housing for employees of Tesla, SpaceX and the Boring Company, The Wall Street Journal reported in March.

If approved, the municipality would occupy thousands of hectares he has acquired in recent years.

Marc Benioff

Marc Benioff’s cash pile grows a bit every day, thanks to a unique selling strategy unlike any other billionaire tracked by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Since July, the Salesforce co-founder has been selling 15,000 shares of the software company’s stock – about $3 million worth – almost daily.

Including a smaller selling streak earlier in the year, Mr Benioff has unloaded more than $475 million worth of shares in 170 or so transactions.

His strategy of taking a little bit off the table every day dates to soon after Salesforce’s 2004 initial public offering, with Mr Benioff making more than 200 sales the following year, records show.

He has continued the strategy since, which, according to him, helps to fund charitable gifts to paediatric hospitals, public schools and medical research, among others.

“Business is the greatest platform for change,” Mr Benioff, 59, said in a text message when asked about the stock sales.

“This is why I love business because you can use it to improve the state of the world. That’s also why I love philanthropy.”

He also highlighted his ownership of Time magazine, a publication he purchased for $190 million in 2018.

Other billionaires vary their stock liquidation approaches, from disposing of large blocks to taking years off from selling.

Meta Platforms' Mark Zuckerberg unloaded $185 million worth of shares in a series of transactions in November, his first sales in two years, while Mr Bezos has not sold any shares since disposing of more than $20 billion worth in 2020 and 2021.

Mr Benioff’s fortune has grown by more than 55 per cent in 2023 to $9.3 billion, according to Bloomberg.

He owns roughly 2.5 per cent of the San Francisco-based company he founded in 1999, which makes up about two thirds of his fortune with the balance in cash and other assets.

Carlos Slim

Mexican telecoms mogul Carlos Slim’s fortune has passed the $100 billion mark for the first time, a dozen years after he was crowned the wealthiest person in the world.

While the magnate has made few major overhauls of his portfolio in recent years, he is riding the “super peso”, the result of a surge of about 14 per cent in the Mexican currency against the US dollar this year.

Mr Slim, 83, whose Lebanese parents emigrated to Mexico in 1902, has added about $27 billion to his fortune in 2023 – including $3 billion on Thursday – to increase his lead as the richest Latin American, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Overall, he has slipped in the global ranking to 11th as technology founders have largely taken over the top spots.

The bulk of Mr Slim’s $101.5 billion fortune comes from telecoms company America Movil, which collects about 40 per cent of its revenue in Mexican pesos and also has exposure to the euro from its operations in Austria.

Shares in Mr Slim’s Grupo Carso company, which does everything from construction to operating restaurants and shops, have soared 109 per cent this year and are the best performing in Mexico’s benchmark index.

Updated: December 18, 2023, 5:00 AM