Bono and Buffett
Pro Bono Donations
Before Warren Buffett decided last year to pledge $32 billion of his fortune to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, guessing what he might do with his money was an intriguing game for many people, philanthropists included. The singer Bono of the band U2, who has worked with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for several years - and who has a foundation of his own, called DATA (for Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa) - recently told Fortune's Andy Serwer during a CNN interview how he learned about Buffett's momentous decision.
I remember meeting Bill Gates, who we couldn't do our work without - Bill and Melinda Gates - and Bill said, "Listen, Bono, don't think you'll ever get a dime out of Warren Buffett. I've tried. Believe me, I've tried. He's too busy, he's too focused on his business, he doesn't have time to be thinking about giving away the money."
So now cut to earlier this year, and all our organization is on a two-day outing in France. There's the DATA people. There's the ONE campaigners. [ONE is a campaign that Bono helped launch to fight AIDS and poverty.] There's Product Red. And after two days, we finish our annual meeting. We're sitting in a restaurant, and the phone rings, and it's Bill Gates. He said, "Are you sitting down?" And I said, "Well, actually I'm just about to. I'm opening a bottle of wine." And he said, "Listen, you need to sit down. I've got somebody who wants to tell you something." So Warren comes on the phone and says [here Bono does a rather good Buffett imitation], "Hi, Bono, uh, listen, uh, you know I got all this money and you know I don't want to spend it, and ..." And I said, "Sorry, Warren?" And he said, "Well, it's about $32 billion." And I said, "Would you mind if I put you on speakerphone?"
So Warren Buffett was talking now to all the people who really do the work. I mean, I'm the rock star, but these are the people who are actually changing the world. And to see their faces as this man gave his life's work to their work, to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was quite a remarkable moment. It was the first call that they had made, and I was very touched by that. And Bill Gates, for once, was really wrong.