TIGER 21 DISCUSSES SOCIAL ENTERPRISE AND PHILANTHROPY
by Tanya Benedicto
It’s more than writing a check
Once a month, every month, since its inception in 1998, the exclusive and ultra high net worth investment clubTiger21holds meetings to discuss personal wealth issues (my daughter is emulating Paris Hilton) and asset allocation (is my portfolio too heavy in bonds?). New York-based members gather in its headquarters, a gallant Upper East Side townhouse, in intimate groups of ten to fourteen individuals. But at its first national convention, 120 members from 13 chapters from various cities, including Miami, Dallas, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles, convened for the first time under one roof at The Breakers Palm Beach.
For three days members heard from industry magnates: Sam Zell on real estate, Leon Black and Wilbur Ross teamed up for an outlook on private equity, Dick Gephardt and Newt Gingrich spoke separately about national politics and the rakish Bruce Berkowitz on investment banking.
But the Tiger21 convention’s grand finale had nothing to do with boosting their ROI. Instead, it focused on paying it forward.
The closing event, titled The Art of Giving made me recall aBloomberg Markets columnby Matthew Lynn that warned of the ultra-rich as meaner than the rest of us. He adds, “Even worse, the richest of the rich turn out to be pretty stingy as well.” Also, astudyby researchers at the University of Berkeley, California reported the rich are less inclined to give to charity than those from lower income brackets. For some, discussing contributions could be just as taboo as revealing your net worth, but this Tiger21 panel wasn’t about felicitating one another on good fortune and stellar morals. It was about smart and strategic philanthropy.
Tiger 21 panelist Al O’Connor, former hedge fund manager and one of three founders ofOpportunity for All, put it simply: “”We’re financial guys who understand leverage which we get by combining forces, working with a limited number of NGOs and requiring that all of our gifts be matched. Personally, we hope to become better philanthropists over time by gaining practical ‚Äògiving’ experience. We also hope to instill a culture of giving in the next generation.”
The discussion featured Charles Bronfman, Chairman of theAndrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies(a network of foundations operating in Canada, Israel and the U.S.) and co-founder ofTaglit Birthright.
Sitting on the panel with the dashing Canadian billionaire was another philanthropist, a bespectacled, milder Tiger panelist. Despite his divine mansuetude, Ron Bruder’s story delivered equal pull by discussing hisEducation for Employment Foundationwhich he founded in 2006. It sets up job-training institutes to target unemployment in countries prone to terrorism, including Egypt, Morocco, Yemen and Gaza. It is EFE’s belief that any chance for a burgeoning Middle East-North Africa lies in providing opportunities for the youth. In Jordan, for example, recent graduate unemployment has reached 22%. His mission resonated as the whole room was aware of the unfolding turmoil in Egypt and Tunisia.
Bruder’s disposition led to one of a handful of dilemmas that faces philanthropists: when people butt-in their causes. He revealed he has been approached by others as to why he isn’t funneling his real estate wealth to charities benefitting his own people and he resolutely responds to these critics by explaining that helping the Muslim world is beneficial to the Jewish nation.
In 2010 the EFE trained a record 1300 apprentices and for 2011, he projects he will reach 5000 youths. This includes a nursing program for thousands of women from Yemen and Egypt.
Another dilemma facing philanthropists: recognition vs. anonymity. Bronfman says recognition encourages his close circle and raises public awareness. O’Connor acknowledged that philanthropists may fall from the tree of wealth, success and superegos, but opted for the “lead by example” approach.
When Bruder started his introduction, I realized I met him in 2008 when I was a production assistant at FOX. His story would stick with me forever, once the FOX Business Network’s greenroom plasmas played magnificent b-roll of women in burqas, walking single-file at an Education for Employment graduation ceremony.