“If I live long enough, it ends with me.”
Laurene Powell Jobs, one of the richest women in the world, shared important news, buried in a new interview, about what she plans to do with her wealth.
Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs, is one of the world’s most important philanthropists, overseeing a sprawling media, political, and charitable empire called Emerson Collective. And she plans to direct Emerson to give away her $28 billion in assets during her lifetime or shortly after her death — rather than aiming to fund a perpetual vehicle that doles out small amounts of cash until the end of time.
“I inherited my wealth from my husband, who didn’t care about the accumulation of wealth,” she told the New York Times. “I’m not interested in legacy wealth buildings, and my children know that. If I live long enough, it ends with me.”
The sentiment, which she doesn’t appear to have expressed before, syncs with a building consensus among some of tech’s wealthiest people: That the rich should give away their money today, rather than later, and that the heirs of long-dead billionaires shouldn’t have so much power in society centuries later.
The wealthy of the previous gilded age — think of the Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Ford families, for instance — secured their fortunes in charitable foundations that then gave out small amounts of that money each year (traditionally, about 5 percent of their current assets) in grants. And because their assets tend to grow by a similar amount each year, too, these foundations seem to be on pace to exist for forever, giving the dead and the dead’s heirs unusual power over the social sectors’ responses to problems and reducing the amount of money spent to tackle today’s issues.
Powell Jobs is taking a different tack. And in doing so, she is drawing some ideological distance from this type of foundation-by-inheritance model.
“It’s not right for individuals to accumulate a massive amount of wealth that’s equivalent to millions and millions of other people combined. There’s nothing fair about that,” she told the Times. “We saw that at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries with the Rockefellers and Carnegies and Mellons and Fords of the world. That kind of accumulation of wealth is dangerous for a society. It shouldn’t be this way.”