A rare copy of “Birds of America” by John James Audubon was sold yesterday for Ł7,321,250 (over $10 million) at a Sotheby’s auction in London, making it the world’s most expensive printed book.

Sotheby's employees peruse the four-volume hand-drawn tome

The four-volume book, one of the best preserved editions of Audubon’s 19th-century masterpiece, with its 435 hand-colored illustrations, was bought by London dealer Michael Tollemache bidding in the Sotheby’s auction room. After offering the winning bid, Tollemache described the book, which contains 435 magnificent hand-coloured etched plates, as “priceless”.

While the Audubon volume holds the record for a printed book, a 72-page notebook of Leonardo da Vinci’s handwritten notes and illustrations known as the Leicester Codex was bought by Bill Gates in 1994 for $31 million.

Leicester Codex bought by Bill Gates for $31 million

To some,  the “Birds of America” is just a bunch of bird pictures. To others, it is a rare blend of art, natural history and craftsmanship.

Some of the world’s wealthiest book collectors had been anticipating the auction for months: it represents a chance to own one of the best preserved editions of Aubudon’s 19th Century masterpiece, with its 435 hand-colored illustrations.

Each individual picture in “Birds of America” is so valuable there have been some fears the volume could be broken up and sold as 435 separate works of art. Experts believe that unlikely: the tome is probably more valuable intact. And collectors hold Audubon in such reverence that the notion of ripping apart a perfect copy would be akin to sacrilege.

Golden Eagle

“Audubon’s Birds holds a special place in the rare book market for several reasons,” said Heather O’Donnell, a specialist with Bauman Rare Books in New York. “The book is a major original contribution to the study of natural history in the New World.

“It’s also one of the most visually stunning books in the history of print: The scale of the images, the originality of each composition, the brilliance of the hand coloring.”

“No one can rival John James Audubon for frontier glamour,” she said. “The story of his lonely journey through the American wilderness and his struggle to record what he saw there gives the Birds a resonance that no other book can match.”

Hooping Crane

Audubon was part naturalist, part artist, and possessed a rare, almost unequaled ability to observe, catalog and paint the birds he observed in the wild. Experts say his book, originally published in 1827, is unmatched in its beauty and also of considerable scientific value, justifying its stratospheric cost.

Pom Harrington, owner of the Peter Harrington rare book firm in London, said it has been 10 years since the last complete edition of “Birds of America,” with all of the illustrations, has been auctioned – and that was sold for $8.8 million by Christie’s auction house, a record for a printed book at auction at that time.

He said it is unusual to find a copy not in a museum or academic institution.

“If you want to buy an example of a rare work of art, this is one of the best,” he said. “It is valuable in its artistic nature because it is so well drawn.”

He said other historic books – like an excellent example of a Gutenberg Bible – would likely be valued even higher if they came up for sale.

Harrington estimated that a complete Gutenberg Bible in good condition would probably sell for between $30 million and $50 million, but none has been sold in more than 30 years. In recent years, he said, a complete First Folio of Shakespeare’s works sold at auction for about $5.6 million while a Chaucer collection sold for more than $4 million.

Sotheby’s books expert David Goldthorpe said the Aubudon and Shakespeare volumes represent “the twin peaks of book collecting.” The books come from the estate of the 2nd Baron Hesketh, an aristocratic book collector who died in 1955.

The “Birds of America” plates were printed in black and white and hand-colored afterward. That made the production process extremely expensive, especially, Harrington said, since it was carried out by “the best artists of the time.”

The collection, made from engravings of Audubon’s watercolors, measures more than 3 feet by 2 feet (90 centimeters by 60 centimeters) because Audubon wanted to paint the birds life size.

A Greater Flamingo

The size of the illustrations makes them extremely valuable as standalone piece of arts, which makes the complete edition vulnerable to being broken up so the individual prints can be sold one-by-one.

There are thought to be just over 100 copies of Birds Of America, which measures around 90 centimetres by 60 centimetres, still in existence.

Audubon painted life-sized illustrations of almost 500 breeds in the 40-inch-high book, which merited several mentions in Darwin’s The Origin Of Species.

Only 119 copies exist, of which fewer than a dozen are in private hands.

John James Audubon (April 26, 1785 – January 27, 1851) was a French-American ornithologist, naturalist, hunter, and painter. He possessed a rare, almost unequaled ability to observe, catalogue and paint the birds of North America he observed in the wild. Born in Haiti and raised in France as a youth, he emigrated to the U.S. at 18.  He had been fascinated by birds since childhood and was determined to illustrate America’s breeds more realistically than ever before. Audubon made an epic voyage down the mighty Mississippi after his dry-goods business failed, with only a rifle, an assistant, and a drawing pad, making illustrations of as many birds as he could find.

John James Audobnon

Using a technique which would shock modern wildlife artists, Audubon hunted them down and shot them before propping them up on wires to paint. Each drawing would take about 60 hours to complete.

He did not find a printer in the United States willing to take on the book, with its oversize illustrations, so he sailed to England, eventually finding printers in Edinburgh, Scotland, and in London.

Many of his beautifully rendered subjects are now extinct, such as the passenger pigeon which until the mid-19th century migrated across the U.S. in flocks of up to two million. The book was sold as part of the collection of the late Lord Hesketh which included a Shakespeare First Folio from 1623, said to be the most important book in English literature. The First Folio was sold for Ł1.5million.

David Goldthorpe, of Sotheby’s, said the two were the ‘twin peaks’ of the book world. He added: ‘To have these items in one sale is remarkable.’

Experts say the book he produced is unmatched in its beauty and also of considerable scientific value, justifying its stratospheric cost.

Pom Harrington, owner of the Peter Harrington rare book firm in London, said it has been ten years since the last complete edition of ‘Birds of America’, with all of the illustrations, has been auctioned – and that was sold for Ł5.6million by Christie’s auction house in 2000, a record for a printed book at auction.

The quality of the edition offered yesterday by Sotheby’s was extremely high, said Harrington, and it is unusual to find one not in a museum or academic institution.

‘If you want to buy an example of a rare work of art, this is one of the best,’ he said. ‘It is valuable in its artistic nature because it is so well drawn.’

The plates were printed in black and white and hand coloured afterwards. That made the production process extremely expensive, especially since it was carried out by ‘the best artists of the time’, said Harrington.

The collection of 435 hand-coloured prints, made from engravings of Audubon’s watercolours, measures more than 3ft by 2ft because Audubon wanted to paint the birds life-size.

A pair of Barn Owls

The size of the illustrations makes them extremely valuable as standalone pieces of art, which makes the complete edition vulnerable to being broken up so the individual prints can be sold one-by-one.

Harrington, said the wild turkey that is depicted in the first big plate of the book can be sold for Ł126,000.

Wild Turkey

But Mark Ghahramani, a rare book specialist at Classic Bindings in London, said it is unlikely that Birds Of America will be divided up for resale because it is probably more valuable if left intact.

‘There are very few copies left of the entire book, so I would think that whoever bought it at the auction would be quite interested in keeping it whole,’ he said. ‘Anything to do with American natural history is quite valuable.’

You can get more information about “The Birds of America” by John James Audubon and view all the illustrations of the birds at this link.

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A  contestant in one of Germany’s most popular TV shows, “Wetten, dass…?” (“You want a bet?” or “Wanna Bet?”), is in intensive care with serious spine injuries on Sunday after a stunt watched by millions of viewers went horribly wrong.

The prime-time evening show, a national institution, is a variety program on public channel ZDF that often carries crazy things performed by members of the public, interspersed with musical acts and celebrity chat, and regularly attracts some 10 million viewers.

The German prime-time show, which regularly attracts 10 million viewers, is based on ordinary people performing strange things. This contestant said she could hula-hoop with a truck tire.

The show, which is broadcast live, also features world-famous celebrities. In the past, these have included the likes of Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie, Bill Gates and Mikhail Gorbachev. The stars also make bets on whether the competitors can do what they say.

Samuel Koch, a 23-year-old drama student and part-time stunt man from the town of Efringen-Kirchen in the state of Baden-Württemberg, attempted to jump lengthways over a moving car wearing spring-loaded stilts when he hit the windshield, flipped over the vehicle, and landed face-down, flat-out on the stage. His own father was driving the Audi vehicle.

Koch with the TV hosts Thomas Gottschalk and Michelle Hunziker before attempting his stunt

Koch trying to leap lengthways over a moving car driven by his father

Koch was flunged over the car after the failed attempt

Koch landed badly and fell to the floor

German TV hosts Thomas Gottschalk and Michelle Hunziker look at Samuel Koch after he had landed flat on his face during the German game show "Wetten Dass" in Duesseldorf

Koch receiving medical attention after the accident.

The show's hosts Thomas Gottschalk (L) and Michelle Hunziker (R) after the accident

The show's hosts appearing upset and distressed after the accident.

The show was abandoned for the first time in its 29-year history as Koch was rushed to a hospital in Düsseldorf where Koch was put into a medically-induced coma while doctors operated on him for two and a half hours for a severe spinal injury.

Wanna Bet has come under fire there for safety issues after the incident. Others scheduled to be on that night’s program, Justin Bieber, Cameron Diaz and Christoph Waltz, also did not appear

Commentators blamed the battle for ratings, which has caused television shows to go further and become more dangerous than ever before, they say.

A media policy spokesperson from the Green Party said that the television producers’ sense of responsibility should not be forgotten in the fight for better ratings. Hannelore Kraft, the governor of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, who had been in the studio audience, said she had been shocked and expressed her sympathy for Koch’s family.

Hannelone Kraft (center), the governor of the state of North Rine-Westphalia, was in the live audience

The host of the show, Thomas Gottschalk, denied accusations that Koch’s bet had been too dangerous. “We have always had risky bets, whether they involved motorcycles or ski jumps. It is part of the show,” Gottschalk told the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung. “If we had gotten the impression that he was over-reaching himself with his bet, we would have protected him from himself — as we have done with other candidates in the past.” Gottschalk added that it had been the hardest moment he had ever had to face as an entertainer.

German commentators praised the show’s makers for halting the broadcast and contemplated whether the program had a future. Commentators also lamented the fact that the battle for prime-time ratings on the weekend may have been partially responsible for the tragic accident.

The show's producers were praised for halting the broadcast.

The show’s host, Thomas Gottschalk, was interviewed live on the late news on national television, defending the decision to let Koch attempt his stunt.

“In 29 years we have had lots of dangerous bets, young people climbing up walls and one young man who jumped over a house on a skateboard, and the worst we have ever had is a broken leg,” a solemn Gottschalk said.

“I ate with the young man (Koch) and I was reassured to see how much he was looking forward to the show, how motivated he was … I am so sorry that it ended like this.”

He added in another interview: “If I had had the impression that he wanted to do something that he wasn’t capable of I would have forbidden him from taking part.

“But I didn’t have this impression at any time.”

The accident is captured in this YouTube video:

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Apple crushed revenue and earnings estimates, as expected, but the iPad business posted a huge miss: 4.19 million shipments versus the Street’s consensus at 4.7 million and many estimates above 5 million.

On the earnings call, Apple hinted that this was at least in part a supply issue, noting that supply and demand weren’t balanced until September, the last month of the quarter.

Steve Jobs stole the show on the call, trashing competitors like RIM and Google, and suggesting that the iPad and iPhone will win against rivals because they are better products at great prices. Jobs also said the company is holding onto its cash — more than $50 billion now — mostly in case a big strategic opportunity comes along.

On the plus side, Apple’s iPhone business posted huge numbers despite the “Antennagate” hoopla — Apple moved 14.1 million phones last quarter, and boasted in its press release that this beat RIM’s most recent quarter, when it shipped 12.1 million BlackBerry devices

Steve Jobs also announced that Apple has already sold more than 250,000 of the new Apple TV device.

On a lighter note, I have just received an email from my cousin Sylvester with these Steve Jobs/Apple/Bill Gates jokes. Apple investors are all smiles with the great earnings reported by Apple but I hope these jokes will bring a big grin to you all.

Apple jokes

"Apple" Jobs & "Soft" Gates

Applegate

"Bills" Gates

Let’s get back to “serious” business again. Microsoft and Apples are rumored to be collaborating on a new product.  It is all shrouded in secrecy but I heard that the product will be called “SoftApple”  and will run on a BlowJob (oops!)  BillJob platform and powered by a Applegate processor.  Stay tuned for the launch!

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Hurun Research Institute yesterday released the Top Five of the Hurun Rich List 2010, the twelfth annual ranking of the richest individuals in China. The complete Hurun Rich List 2010, China’s equivalent of the Forbes list, listing 1363 individuals with personal wealth of at least a billion Chinese yuan (US$150 million), will be released mid-October. Hurun is a luxury publishing group run by British accountant Rupert Hoogewerf in Shanghai.

Twelve billion dollars. That’s what it takes to be named the richest person in China. China’s richest individual is Zong Qinghua with $12 billion, a fortune that is however dwarfed by the $53.5 billion amassed by Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim, who this year beat Bill Gates to the title of world’s richest person.

Zong Qinghou, 65, the Chinese soft drinks magnate famous for tackling the French Danone group in China’s highest-profile foreign investment dispute, has been named the mainland’s richest man with a personal fortune of $12bn. Zong tops a list of 1,363 yuan billionaires in China — up from 1,000 last year.

Zong heads Wahaha, China’s leading soft drinks company, which recently emerged largely victorious from a protracted global legal battle with Danone, its former joint venture partner. “Drinks King” Zong, 65, has overseen Wahaha’s rise to become China’s dominant drinks business with expected profits this year of US$1.5bn and 30,000 employees,” the Hurun Report, which compiles the list, said in a statement. He rose from 12th place last year.

After battling Zong in litigation and arbitration proceedings from Samoa to the British Virgin Islands, Danone last year decided to sell its 51 per cent share of the joint venture to Zong for only €300m — despite winning a partial ruling in its favour from a Stockholm arbitration panel. Danone had alleged that Zong — who managed the joint venture’s 36 subsidiaries — ran parallel operations that competed against the joint venture.

Zong and his wife and daughter hold 60 per cent of shares in the Wahaha group, which dominates China’s soft drinks market and has expanded into food products.

Zong was one of two drinks makers in the top five of the Rich List, released in Shanghai on Wednesday, underlining the strength of some Chinese consumer goods brands, and an unexpected rise in the proportion of manufacturers at the top of the list, at the expense of property developers.

“2010 is the first time in ten years a property tycoon has not made the Top Five,” says Rupert Hoogewerf, the list’s founder. He noted that China’s fourth wealthiest man, Liang Wen’gen, made his fortune from selling construction equipment — rather than from property speculation.

“Liang sells construction equipment to businesses feeding off the great Chinese urbanisation boom and has, in the process, made himself richer than any property developer”, says Mr Hoogewerf.

On average, the Hurun Rich Lister started out aged 34 in 1993, and is today 51 years of age. This is fifteen years younger than US or European counterparts, with faster growth in their fortunes.

“China probably now has the largest number of billionaires anywhere in the world,” says Rupert Hoogewerf. “We already know of 189 US dollar billionaires in China this year, but you can safely say that we have missed at least half again, meaning there are between 400 and 500 USD billionaires.”

The most popular family names in this year’s list are Wang with 103 people, Zhang 95, Li 92, Chen 89, Liu 59, Huang 47 and Wu 40. Interestingly, Zong Qinghou, this year’s Number One, is the only one with the surname Zong.

The Hurun Rich List is a snapshot of wealth as of 16 August 2010. The exchange rate used for US$ was RMB 6.8. The list relates to Mainland Chinese only, defined as someone born and brought up in Mainland China, no matter what passport they might hold today.

Last year’s number one, 44-year-old Wang Chuanfu, has seen his wealth drop ten percent as a result of his company’s waning fortunes on the stock market, placing him twelfth on the list with US$4.6 billion. The Warren Buffet-backed auto entrepreneur’s wealth was accumulated mainly from his BYD high-technology firm, which has specialized in batteries for mobile telephones and electric vehicles. BYD has recently had to cut its forecast of conventional car production for this year from 800,000 to 600,000. Delays in production of his electric cars have led the market to conclude that it may be years before BYD’s green cars make a big contribution to profits.

Wang Chuanfu

2008’s number one, Huang Guangyu, the imprisoned electronics tycoon and founder of Gome, the Chinese electronics empire, ranked 21 despite losing a protracted battle — waged from his jail cell — to replace the current Gome chairman with Mr Huang’s sister. Huang is serving 14-year prison sentence for insider share-trading, bribery and other offences.

Huang Guangyu of Gome

With its emerging wealth, China also has a growing income gap. The minimum monthly wage in parts of China is as low as 660 yuan ($95). China’s top leaders have made boosting farmers’ incomes a top political priority as they worry about social unrest.

Here are China’s top 5 richest people in 2010 according to Hurun:

1) 65-year old Zong Qinghou of Wahaha is the richest man in China with a personal fortune of US$12 billion. ‘Drinks King’ Zong has grown Wahaha into China’s dominant drinks business with expected profits this year of US$1.5 billion and 30,000 employees. This year, Wahaha finally settled its protracted dispute with France-based Danone. Zong, who, together with his wife and daughter owns 60% of Wahaha, has jumped up from twelfth place in last year’s list.  The owner of a company best known for its soft drinks brands was named as China’s richest person with a personal fortune estimated at some 12 billion dollars on Thursday. Zong Qinghou, 65, shot to the top of the annual China Rich List of the country’s wealthiest entrepreneurs after his Wahaha group settled a long dispute with French firm Danone, the Shanghai-based Hurun Report said. Zong, his wife and daughter hold 60 per cent of shares in the Wahaha group, which dominates China’s soft drinks market and has expanded into food products.

China's richest person...Zong Qinghou

2) Li Li & family caused a sensation when drug maker Shenzhen Hepalink Pharmaceutical went public in May, catapulting him straight into second place on the list with a personal fortune of US$6 billion. Li Li, 46 years, his wife Li Tan and her cousin Shan Yu founded the business in 1998 and together own a 75.6% stake. Hepalink makes heparin, a blood thinner purified from pig intestines, used to prevent blood clots. This is the first time a pharmaceutical tycoon has made it into the Top Five of the Hurun Rich List — underlining the rise of local drug companies eager to serve the rapidly expanding Chinese healthcare market.

Li Li of Hepalink

3) 53-year-old  Zhang Yin, founder of the paper-recycling giant Nine Dragons Paper, sees her wealth grow by almost a billion US dollars to US$5.6 billion on the back of growth in the domestic retail market. Li Li’s rise, however, drops Zhang down one place to third. Notwithstanding this, Zhang remains the richest woman in China, and the richest self-made woman in the world. “Paper Queen” Zhang Yin, who in 2006 became the first woman to head the list, remains China’s richest woman and now ranks third in the list.

Nine Dragons Paper's Zhang Yin...China's richest woman

4) Liang Wengen of Sany Heavy Industry Co. Ltd is proof of the adage that if you want to make money in a gold rush, sell shovels to gold miners. 54 year old Liang jumped 16 places to fourth with a personal fortune of US$5.4 billion. Liang sells construction equipment to businesses feeding off the great Chinese urbanisation boom and has, in the process, made himself richer than any property developer.

Liang Wengen.... Chairman of Sany Group

Liang’s wealth rose sharply largely after listing a second subsidiary, this time in Hong Kong. The only company from the Hurun Top Five headquartered in China’s poorer Western regions, Liang has overseen Sany’s growth into one of the world’s biggest makers of construction equipment, with sales last year of US$4.5 billion and 46,000 employees. Liang owns 58.2% of the group.

5) Fifth of the list is a  tie between Robin Li Yanhong with search engine company Baidu Inc. and Yan Bin of Ruoy Chai International Group, whose brands include Red Bull energy drinks.

Robin Li Yanhong saw his wealth double year on year, placing him fifth on the list with US$5.3 billion. 42-year-old Li has Google’s departure from China to thank for Baidu’s sharp share increase, and is this year lining up Baidu to take on Taobao in the online shopping market.

Robin Li Yanhong of Baidu

Yan Bin has grown his fortune on the back of a strong performance in sales of Red Bull energy drinks in China, which are expected to hit US$800 million this year. Fifty-six year old Yan started his business in Thailand and is also known by his Thai name of Chanchai Ruayrungruang. Apart from Red Bull, Yan owns the luxury Reignwood Group, which includes the best-known golf club in Beijing. He is the second drink maker in the Top 5.

Yan Bin also known by his Thai name of Chanchai Ruayrungruang

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In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ – Acts 20:35

As for the rich in the present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share. – 1 Timothy 6:17, 18

But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind - Luke 14:13

Warren Buffet - The Oracle of Omaha

Warren Edward Buffet is one of my most admired persons. Born on 30th August 1930,  he is one of the most successful investors in the world. The legendary investor, often called the “Oracle of Omaha” or the “Sage of Omaha”, is one of the richest persons in the world. He is the primary shareholder, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. Despite his immense wealth, he is known for his adherence to the value investing philosophy and for his personal frugality.

Warren Buffet's modest house

On June 26, 2006, Buffet announced that he would give away eighty-five percent of his Berkshire Hathaway stock – worth $37 billion at that time – to a group of foundations over a number of years. No gift of this size had ever been made in the history of philanthropy. Five out of every six shares would go to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, already the largest charity in the world, in a historic marriage of two fortunes for the betterment of the world.

Buffet With Bill & Melinda Gates

Buffet would establish no Buffet hospital, no college or university endowment or building with his name on it. By donating the money without naming something after himself, without controlling personally how it would be spent – to put money in the coffers of another foundation that he had selected for its competence and efficiency, rather than creating a whole new empire – upended every convention of giving. Such a thing had never been done by any major donor before. “It was a historic moment in the field of philanthropy globally,” said Doug Bauer of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.  “It ‘s set a bar, a touchstone, for others.”

The Gates Foundation adhered to a basic creed that Buffet shared: Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, it worked to reduce inequities and improve lives around the world in the areas of global health and education.

More than 99% of his wealth will go to philanthropy during his lifetime or at death. He and his family will give up nothing they need or want by just retaining 1% of his wealth. But fulfilling this 99% pledge will have a huge effect on the health and welfare of others.

The effects of Buffet’s pledge were sizable. Jackie Chan announced that he would give away half his wealth. Li Ka-Shing, Asia’s richest man, pledged a third of his wealth to his own charitable foundation.  Carlos Slim, the Mexican communications monopolist, ridiculed Buffet and Gates for their philanthropy but  did a turnabout a few months later and announced that he, too, would be giving money away.

Buffet said 70 to 80 people on the Forbes magazine list of the world’s richest were contacted as part of his drive to boost giving. Forty individuals or families signed on, leaving about half that need convincing.  Buffet said he’ll keep pressing the billionaires who rebuffed his request that they pledge at least half of their fortunes to charity.

“We don’t give up on them,” Buffet said. “Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future, so we’ll keep working.”

In a landmark moment for philanthropy, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are advocating that all billionaires commit to giving at least half of their wealth to charitable groups within their lifetimes or after their deaths.

Dubbed The Giving Pledge, the initiative is the result of a series of dinners the two men held over the past year to discuss the effects of the recession on philanthropy with some of the nation’s richest people, including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Revlon owner Ronald Perelman and David Rockefeller, his family’s patriarch.

Michael Bloomberg, New York City Mayor

Ronald Perelman - Revlon Owner

David Rockefeller is the current patriarch of the Rockefeller family

The Giving Pledge does not accept money or tell people how to donate their money, but asks billionaires to make a moral commitment to give their fortunes to charity and to publicly state their intention with a letter explaining their decision.  The Giving Pledge aims to reverse the recession’s trend of declining donations. In all, (if successful) the initiative would transfer $600 billion — a figure calculated by dividing the amount of wealth represented in Forbes magazine’s billionaires list in half — to charitable causes.

The Giving Pledge

Bill & Melinda Gates & Warren Buffet - The Giving Pledge

The initiative could place pressure on prominent families like the Duncans of Houston to dispense more of the family’s trust. Duncan gifted more than $250 million to Baylor College of Medicine, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Texas Children’s Hospital and other Houston institutions during his life.

Gates and Buffets’ goal is to instill the expectation that the rich should give away their wealth while creating a peer group of wealthy people that can offer advice on philanthropy, said Melinda Gates,  Bill’s wife and the co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Mr. Rockefeller has pledged to give at his death more than $1 billion to charitable causes, including gifts of more than $100 million to the Museum of Modern Art, Rockefeller University, Harvard University and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

For his part, Bloomberg said he gave $254 million to nearly 1,400 nonprofit organizations in 2009, adding, “I am a big believer in giving it all away and have always said that the best financial planning ends with bouncing the check to the undertaker.”

Among the rich joining The Giving Pledge campaign are New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, media moguls Barry Diller and Ted Turner, Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison, “Star Wars” movie maker George Lucas, energy tycoon T. Boone Pickens, Revlon owner Ronald Perelman, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison,  former CEO & Chairman 0f Citigroup Inc. Sanford Weill,  real estate and construction billionaire Eli Broad, venture capitalist , media entrepreneur Gerry Lenfest and former Cisco Systems Chairman John Morgridge. The full list of billionaires and their letters can be seen at www.thegivingpledge.org.

“We took about 70 to 80 names, a fair number were people I didn’t know at all,” Buffet said. “We had reason to believe in most cases that the people already had an interest in philanthropy.”

Larry Ellison - CEO of Oracle

Sanford Weill - Former CEO & Chairman 0f Citigroup, Inc.

Media mogul Barry Diller

Media mogul Ted Turner

Star Wars movie maker George Lucas

Energy tycoon T.Boone Pickens

Real estate & construction billionaire Eli Broad

Venture capitalist John Doerr

Media entrepreneur Gerry Lenfest

Former Cisco Systems Chairman John Morgridge

Buffet said he will hold more dinners in the U.S. to encourage additional promises. Buffet and Gates  are due to meet with some of the wealthiest people in China in September and India in March.

The world has become a much better place because of Buffet, Bill Gates and the billionaires who have made their commitments to The Giving Pledge. The Giving Pledge is really an awesome idea and based on Forbes magazine’s estimates of the billionaires’ wealth, at least $150 billion could be given away. I salute these billionaires!

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