When you hear the name Charles ‘Chuck’ Feeney words like pioneering businessman, leading entrepreneur and uber-philanthropist might not spring to mind – but that’s just the way he likes it.
Chuck had been an anonymous donor for most of his life. It was only in 1997 that his secret was revealed in an article published by The New York Times titled ‘He gave away $600 million and no one knew’.
Born during the Great Depression in 1931, he enlisted in the US Air Force at 18, served during the Korean War and began selling duty-free liquor to sailors – a sign of things to come!
Chuck was one of two founders of Duty Free Shoppers (DFS) back in 1960, which eventually went on to become the powerhouse of duty-free airport shops tourists know and love today.
It first started with a store at Hong Kong airport and soon led to many others around the world. The simple idea from Chuck, and university-friend-turned-business-partner Robert Miller, took off.
Customers loved snapping up duty-free products and while success was satisfying, the trappings of great wealth made Chuck uncomfortable.
So, in the 1980s, the quiet and unassuming billionaire transferred the bulk of his wealth into The Atlantic Philanthropies.
The idea of using his wealth to help others and make the world a better place was definitely more appealing, rather than funnelling it into a lavish lifestyle.
Simply put, he says, “I’m happy when what I’m doing is helping people and unhappy when what I’m doing isn’t helping people.”
His Irish-American family came from humble beginnings and lived in New Jersey. Chuck’s father was an insurance underwriter and his mother a nurse, who instilled in him a charitable impulse and a sensitivity towards others…
To continue reading our profile piece on Chuck Feeney, please visit the Everly Mag Shop where you’ll find Issue 1 (available in print or digital).
(Second photo courtesy of Chien-Chi Chang/Magnum Foundation)