Chuck Feeney –Working Hard to Make Others Happy

Meet Chuck Feeney, an Irish-American businessman and philanthropist, who believes the rich have obligation to help those in need. Feeney made his fortune as a co-founder of the Duty Free Shoppers Group with Robert Warren Miller.

  • Born as Charles Francis Feeney on the 23rd of April, 1931, Feeney was brought up amidst the great depression of the Second World War in Elizabeth, New Jersey, USA.
  • Despite his humble beginnings, he always carried the charisma of an entrepreneur and a philanthropist. His unique attribute could be traced to his parents who were goodhearted persons as well. As a young boy, he was always thinking of business ideas. He sold Christmas cards from door to door from a tender age, and also shovels neighbor’s sidewalks during snowstorms.
  • Chuck Feeney started his career immediately after he graduated from the university, joining his parents to start a business –selling liquor to American sailors in ports around Europe. The secret of their early success was locating the Navy ships before their competitors.
  • After many years of recording good success, he expanded his business and made it a worldwide business, creating duty free shops at airports, while selling luxury items to tourists.
  • The Duty Free Shoppers (DFS) concept –offering high-end concessions to travelers, free of import taxes– was in its infancy when Feeney, along with Miller, founded DFS on November 7, 1960. The DFS began operations in Hong Kong, where it retains its corporate headquarters, and later expanding to Europe and other continents.
  • DFS’ first major breakthrough came in the early 1960s, when it secured the exclusive concession for duty-free sales in Hawaii, allowing it to market its products to Japanese travellers.
  • In 1996, Miller’s and Feeney’s interests were acquired by Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH), the French luxury goods group, for $1.63 billion.
  • With his growing wealth, Chuck Feeney never forgot his philosophy about helping people because this has always been a goal he craves to achieve.
  • He founded The Atlantic Philanthropies, one of the largest private foundations in the world. And having made provision for each of his children and his first wife, as well as a very modest provision for himself, he transferred the bulk of his wealth to the foundation. “I had one idea that never changed in my mind –that you should use your wealth to help people,” Feeney said in an interview.
  • Feeney has been a major donor to his alma mater, Cornell University, which has received over $950 million in direct and Atlantic gifts, including a donation of $350 million towards the New York Tech Campus.
  • As of October 2012, the Atlantic Philanthropies has made grants totalling more than $6.2 billion since inception in 1982, and plans to spend $1.3 billion more by 2016. The foundation grant supports health and social projects in Australia, Bermuda, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, South Africa, the United States and Vietnam.
  • Last year, in an historic event, all the universities of Ireland, North and South, jointly conferred an Honorary Doctorate of Laws on Feeney. The same year, he also received the Republic of Ireland’s Presidential Distinguished Service Award for Irish Abroad.