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$900 million new Thanksgiving mega-gift from Warren Buffett goes to his children’s charitable foundations
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$900 million new Thanksgiving mega-gift from Warren Buffett goes to his children’s charitable foundations

Warren Buffett’s new Thanksgiving tradition is a little more elaborate than picking up a pumpkin pie for dinner. The famed investor donated close to $900 million worth of his company’s stock to four of his family’s foundations, topping his nearly $800 million gift last November.

Buffett converted 1,600 shares of Berkshire Hathaway’s Class A stock into 2.4 million shares of the conglomerate’s much cheaper and far more liquid Class B shares, a regulatory filing showed.

He gave 1.5 million B shares to The Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, named after his late wife, and 300,000 shares to each of his three children’s organizations: The Sherwood Foundation, The Howard G. Buffett Foundation, and NoVo Foundation.

The gifts were worth a combined $866 million, based on the $361 closing price of Berkshire’s B shares on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. The donations reduced Buffett’s total number of A shares to 216,687, valued at $119 billion. He already gave shares worth a total of $4.6 billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the same four family foundations in June.

Buffett provided an update on his estate planning, and shared his thoughts on wealth, philanthropy, and Berkshire’s future, in the press release detailing his latest gifts.

“At 93, I feel good but fully realize I am playing in extra innings,” the stock picker quipped, adding that he finds it hard to believe his three children are now aged between 65 and 70.

“Dynastic wealth … is not desirable,” Buffett wrote, before adding that “being rich does not make you either wise or evil.”

Buffett said his three children — Howard, Susan, and Peter — will be executors of his will and the named trustees of the charitable trust that will receive over 99% of his fortune.

“They were not fully prepared for this awesome responsibility in 2006, but they are now,” he said, referring to the “Giving Pledge” he took that year to donate virtually all of his wealth to good causes.

The Berkshire chief said the trio in charge of his fortune will have to make unanimous decisions, and must always have designated successors to avoid disputes over who’s in charge. He noted his trust would have a broad charter, as laws around philanthropy change over time and “wise trustees above ground are preferable to any strictures written by someone long gone.”

Buffett added that his trust will self-liquidate after a decade or so and operate with a lean staff, presumably to ensure it distributes his wealth promptly and maximizes the amount of money that goes toward good causes.

The billionaire also touched on Berkshire’s prospects in the post-Buffett era, saying his successor, Greg Abel, and the board of directors are the right choices to take the company forward. While large organizations can suffer decay, “Berkshire’s advantage is that it has been built to last,” he said.

Buffett cautioned that his large stake in Berkshire would help maintain the company’s identity for a while after his death, but soon enough “Berkshire will earn the reputation it deserves.”

Finally, Buffett promised the distribution of his assets after his death will be an “open book” — a straightforward will that anyone can inspect at the county courthouse.

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