Billionaires: Twitter's Jack Dorsey pledges $1bn of his Square stake for virus relief

In our fortnightly roundup, the tech titan makes the largest pandemic donation yet and Melinda Gates says Donald Trump’s WHO defunding is nonsensical

(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 20, 2014 Jack Dorsey, CEO of Square, Chairman of Twitter and a founder of both ,holds an event in London where he announced the launch of Square Register mobile application. The app, which is available on Apple and Android devises, will allow merchants to track sales, inventories and other data on smartphones and tablets. Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter and founder of Square Inc.  said on April 7, 2020 that he was donating more than a quarter of his wealth for COVID-19 relief efforts. / AFP / Justin TALLIS
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Jack Dorsey

Jack Dorsey pledged $1 billion (Dh3.67bn) of his stake in Square, the payments firm he cofounded, to coronavirus relief efforts, the largest pandemic-related donation yet.
"I hope this inspires others to do something similar," Mr Dorsey said on April 7 in a tweet. "Life is too short, so let's do everything we can today to help people now."
Mr Dorsey, who is also the founder and chief executive of Twitter, said the pledge represents about 28 per cent of his wealth, which Forbes estimates is $3.9bn. The bulk of Mr Dorsey's fortune – about $3bn – is made up of Square equity.
It will take several quarters or even years to complete the transfer, according to a Square spokesperson. The proceeds from the initial sales will fund coronavirus relief efforts. So far, more than $7 million has been dispersed, including $2.1m to Mayor's Fund LA and $2.1m to Direct Relief, according to a publicly available spreadsheet Mr Dorsey linked to in his tweet.
"After we disarm this pandemic, the focus will shift to girl's health and education, and UBI," Mr Dorsey said in the tweet, referring to universal basic income, the idea that all citizens should be provided with a certain amount of money each month.

Mr Dorsey, 43, has been working from his home in San Francisco’s affluent Sea Cliff neighbourhood, following stay-at-home orders that are keeping many people from their regular activities.

While other billionaires have announced significant donations to combat the pandemic and the anticipated economic turmoil, Mr Dorsey’s pledge is by far the biggest so far. Before his announcement, $2.85bn had been committed in the US by companies, public charities, family foundations and individuals, according to Candid, a non-profit research and support organisation.

Amazon's Jeff Bezos, the world's richest person, is donating $100m to Feeding America. Michael and Susan Dell have committed another $100m, mostly for global relief efforts. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged a total of $250m to develop a vaccine and pay for detection, isolation and treatment initiatives.
Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan announced a $25m commitment last month to help research a possible drug for Covid-19.
This is not the first time Mr Dorsey has announced a large stock pledge. In 2015, shortly after Twitter cut roughly 8 per cent of its employees, Mr Dorsey said he was donating almost $200m in Twitter stock back to the employee grant pool.

Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, poses for a photograph following a Bloomberg Television interview at the Group of Seven (G-7) finance ministers and central bank governors meeting in Chantilly, France, on Thursday, July 18, 2019. Global finance chiefs found common ground in their fear of Facebook Inc.’s Libra initiative as they met to discuss more contentious issues from digital taxation to the economic outlook. Photographer: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg
Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said pulling funding from the World Health Organisation is 'as dangerous as it sounds'. Photo: Bloomberg

Melinda Gates

Pulling funding from the World Health Organisation (WHO) is a dangerous and nonsensical move when the world is facing the health crisis brought by the Covid-19 disease pandemic, Melinda Gates said on Wednesday.
Announcing an extra $150m of funding from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help speed the development of treatments, vaccines and public health measures to tackle the new coronavirus outbreak, Melinda Gates said the WHO was "exactly the organisation that can deal with this pandemic".
"De-funding the WHO makes absolutely no sense during a pandemic. We need a global co-ordinated response," Ms Gates, who co-chairs the foundation with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, told Reuters.
"When you're in a crisis like this, it's all hands on deck."
US President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday a halt in US funding to the WHO, saying it had "failed in its basic duty" in allowing the pandemic to take hold.
The Gates Foundation is the second largest donor to the WHO behind the US. Melinda Gates said in a tweet that cutting WHO funding in a health crisis was "as dangerous as it sounds".

The WHO's Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday he regretted Mr Trump's decision. He said the organisation was still assessing the impact and would "try to fill any gaps with partners".

Ms Gates said any gap left in the WHO's funding would be very hard for others to fill.
Alongside support for new diagnostics, drugs and vaccines, the Gates Foundations' $250m commitment is primarily aimed at helping poorer countries and vulnerable populations handle the oncoming and spreading pandemic and the poverty it will cause.

"We really as a global community need to address what is now just beginning in African and South Asian countries. We see a huge need, and that's why we have more than doubled our commitment," she said.
Praising what she described as "heroic work" by local leaders and healthcare workers in poorer countries seeking to protect vulnerable communities and slow the spread of Covid-19, Ms Gates said the world's response to the pandemic "will not be effective unless it is also equitable".
"Whenever a health crisis hits like this, it's the people on the margins that it hits the very most," she said. "They're the ones we need to help to ensure things like cash transfer payments are made and they have access to primary healthcare."
Ms Gates said the foundation is backing eight projects seeking potential solutions for Covid-19 vaccine development and has co-funded enhanced virus detection capacity in Africa as well as contributing to the response in China.

Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive officer of Inc., speaks during a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. Bezos spoke about Amazons sustainability efforts a day before workers around the world, including more than 1,000 of his own employees, are scheduled to walk out to spotlight climate change. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive of Amazon, has seen his net worth grow by $24bn this year. Photo: Bloomberg

Jeff Bezos

With consumers stuck at home, they're relying on Jeff Bezos's Amazon more than ever. The retailer's stock climbed 5.3 per cent to a record on Tuesday, lifting the founder's net worth to $138.5bn.
While the combined net worth of the world's 500 richest people has dropped $553bn this year, it has surged 20 per cent from its low on March 23, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. 
Mr Bezos, 56, has added almost $24bn to his fortune this year. MacKenzie Bezos, who was left with a 4 per cent stake in Amazon as part of the couple's recent divorce settlement, has seen her net worth climb $8.2bn to $45.3bn. She is now No 18 on the Bloomberg wealth ranking, ahead of Mukesh Ambani, India's richest person, and Mexico's Carlos Slim.
Shares of rival retailer Walmart have also advanced, buoying the fortunes of the world's richest family. Alice, Jim and Rob Walton now have a combined net worth of $169bn, up almost 5 per cent since the start of the year.
Tesla chief executive Elon Musk has added $10.4bn to his fortune this year. 
The fortune of Zoom Video Communications founder Eric Yuan has more than doubled to $7.4bn, as demand for its teleconferencing service exploded after the pandemic-driven lockdown.
Other billionaires have not fared as well. Mr Trump lost an estimated $1bn in less than a month as the coronavirus lockdown forced the closure of offices, shopping centres, hotels and golf courses he owns. His fortune fell from $3.1bn on March 1 to $2.1bn on March 18, according to Forbes magazine's annual billionaires list published earlier this month.

Sep 27, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta poses for a picture during media day at Post Oak Hotel. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta is offering potential lenders an interest rate of at least 15 per cent to help his empire survive. Photo: Reuters

Tilman Fertitta

Texas billionaire Tilman Fertitta is looking to raise more debt to keep his restaurant and entertainment empire afloat until the end of the year if the Covid-19 shutdown persists, according to sources.
The businessman is offering potential lenders an interest rate of at least 15 per cent to participate in a new $250m loan for his hundreds of restaurants under the Landry's umbrella that have been ravaged by the coronavirus, Bloomberg reported.

The loan, which matures in October 2023 and is being arranged by Jefferies Financial Group, is one of many levers Mr Fertitta is pulling to shore up liquidity. The pandemic has brought the travel and leisure industry to a near standstill, leaving Mr Fertitta’s businesses shuttered and burning cash while tens of thousands of his employees have been furloughed.

The company has reportedly already drawn $300m of existing credit lines in full and Mr Fertitta is injecting $50m of his own cash into the business. 
Mr Fertitta is also the owner of the National Basketball Association's Houston Rockets team. He has a net worth of $4.8bn, according to Forbes.