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The 25 Highest-Paid Athletes Of All Time

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The NBA is flush with cash right now thanks to its $24 billion TV deal with ESPN and TNT, as well as its global opportunities. Players are sharing in the riches, with 29 current NBAers in the middle of contracts worth at least $94 million in deals that range from three years in the case of LeBron James to five years for most of the 28 others, according to data from Spotrac. The significance of $94 million: It is more than the career earnings from playing salary of the sport’s greatest player, Michael Jordan, who earned $93.8 million with the Chicago Bulls and the Washington Wizards.

But don’t shed a tear for MJ. Sure, he made more than $4 million during only two of his 15 seasons in the NBA (Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf also paid Jordan his $4 million salary during the full season he took off to play baseball). Yet Jordan elevated athlete endorsements to an entirely new level, which has continued long after he hung up his high-tops for good in 2003. The result: Jordan is the highest-paid athlete of all time at $1.85 billion in 2017 dollars (the tally is $1.5 billion in current dollars).

Jordan has partnered with dozens of brands since he turned pro in 1984, including Gatorade, Hanes, MCI, Oakley, Upper Deck, Wheaties and more. His biggest backer has always been Nike, which signed Jordan ahead of his rookie year to a five-year deal worth $2.5 million, plus royalties. The Jordan Brand exploded for Nike and is now a $3.1 billion global business with revenue up 13% over last year and $800 million from two years ago. Jordan’s estimated cut of the business is $140 million this year.

Jordan showed the path to a fortune built on endorsement earnings that has since been followed by Tiger Woods, who ranks second at $1.7 billion. Like Jordan, Woods reached the pinnacle of his sport while shying away from any controversy, making him a marketing darling for sponsors like Accenture, American Express, EA Sports, General Motors and Nike.

READ MORE: Serena Williams Heads The Highest-Paid Female Athletes 2017

Woods banked $600 million (adjusted for inflation) between 2006 and 2010, with endorsements and appearance fees fueling most of the earnings. The image of Woods as the perfect pitchman came crashing down on a Thanksgiving night eight years ago, but he remains the top draw in golf when healthy. His earnings are off 68% from their peak but still rank among the highest in golf.

Forbes‘ earnings estimates include salaries, bonuses, prize money, endorsements and licensing, as well as fees from books, golf course designs and appearances. Earnings cover from the time the athletes turned pro through June 1, 2017, and include money earned after playing careers were over, as well as earnings by the estate in the case of Arnold Palmer. We do not include investment income, and we back-filled years where we did not publish earnings figures, such as prior to 1990 for Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. We adjusted all figures for inflation.

The 25 highest-paid athletes of all time played a mix of eight sports, with golf, basketball and boxing landing five entries each. The top 25 have earned a cumulative $19.4 billion since turning pro ($15.9 billion without adjusting for inflation).

READ MORE: Ronaldo, Le Bron Top World’s Highest-Paid Athletes Of 2017

From branding it like Beckham to the Golden Bear’s Midas touch, these sports legends are so money when it comes to career earnings and endorsement deals.

The Highest-Paid Athletes of All-Time

1. Michael Jordan

Career earnings: $1.85 billion (2017 dollars)

Jordan still maintains his longtime endorsement relationships with Gatorade, Hanes, Nike and Upper Deck, but the investment that made him a billionaire was the $175 million fire-sale price he got the Charlotte Bobcats (now the Hornets) for in 2010. Jordan bumped his Hornets stake to 90% in 2013, and the team is now worth $780 million.

2. Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods during the Hero World Challenge at Albany, Bahamas in Nassau, Bahamas. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Career earnings: $1.7 billion

The 14-time major winner has played only 18 official PGA Tour events since the start of 2014 because of injuries (he’s missed the cut or withdrawn from half of them). Sponsors still see value in partnering with Woods, with TaylorMade, Bridgestone and Monster Energy the most recent additions to his endorsement portfolio.

3. Arnold Palmer

Career earnings: $1.4 billion

Palmer died in September 2016, but his estate still banked $40 million during the last 12 months. More than 400 stores sell Arnold Palmer-branded apparel in Asia, with plans to move into new markets like Thailand and Vietnam. His estate has agreements with 39 licensees. The partnership between IMG founder Mark McCormack and his first client, Palmer, revolutionized sports marketing.

4. Jack Nicklaus

Career earnings: $1.2 billion

Nicklaus’ course design company is responsible for 410 courses in 41 countries, with the 18-time major winner involved in three-quarters of the projects. In addition to course design, the Nicklaus business empire includes real estate, wine, ice cream, drinkware, golf academies, lemonade and more.

5. Michael Schumacher

Career earnings: $1 billion

The health of Schumacher, 47, has been precarious since a 2013 skiing accident in the Alps left him in a coma. The F1 titan dominated his sport while racking up seven titles and is one of only six athletes to top the FORBES highest-paid athletes list since 1990.

6. Phil Mickelson

Career earnings: $815 million

Mickelson pitches for Amgen, ExxonMobil, KPMG, Rolex, Grayhawk and the Greenbrier, as well as two new partners in Intrepid Financial Partners and Workday. His $84 million in career prize money ranks second all-time. Coming in second to Tiger has been plenty lucrative for Lefty, who finally outearned his rival in 2015, for the first time since Woods turned pro in 1996.

7. (tie) Kobe Bryant

Career earnings: $800 million

Bryant’s earnings during his playing career were tops all time among team athletes, and he had the highest NBA salary the final six seasons of his career. The Black Mamba is attacking retirement the way he did opposing guards during his 20-year NBA career. He launched Kobe Inc. and a venture capital firm, Bryant Stibel, with $100 million in funding.

7. (tie) David Beckham

Career earnings: $800 million

Beckham’s most lucrative years have come in retirement thanks to royalty deals with Diageo, to launch a new single-grain Scotch whisky called Haig Club, and Global Brands Group, to create Beckham-branded consumer products. Beckham is inching closer to bringing an MLS expansion team to Miami, which he got the rights to at the bargain-basement price of $25 million.

9. Floyd Mayweather

Floyd Mayweather Jr. v Conor McGregor

Dana White splits Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor apart during the World Press Tour at SSE Arena on July 14, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

Career earnings: $785 million

Our earnings figure for Mayweather does not include his monster payday for his August bout against Conor McGregor (our scoring period ended June 1). His McGregor paycheck makes Mayweather just the sixth athlete ever with earnings of $1 billion.

10. Shaquille O’Neal

Career earnings: $735 million

O’Neal sold a stake in the business of Shaq last year to Authentic Brands Group, which got the rights to roughly half of O’Neal’s future licensing and endorsement revenue in return for a lump sum payment. Shaq’s low-cost sneaker line has sold more than 120 million pairs during his career.

11. LeBron James

Career earnings: $730 million

The NBA’s top pitchman added Intel and Verizon this year to his endorsement portfolio, which already included Nike, Coca-Cola, Beats by Dre and Kia Motor. King James owns a stake in 17 Blaze Pizzas, the fastest-growing food-service business of all-time.

12. Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid during the La Liga match against Sevilla at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Power Sport Images/Getty Images)

Career earnings: $725 million

Ronaldo is rising up the charts as the highest-paid athlete in the world the past two years, including $93 million in the 12 months ending in June. His Real Madrid contract extension will push the earnings for soccer’s reigning player of the year even higher.

13. Greg Norman

Career earnings: $705 million

Like Shaquille O’Neal and Muhammad Ali before him, Norman sold his future licensing rights to Authentic Brands Group in March. Norman’s company retains control of his real estate, investments and course design operations, but ABG will work on his other business interests in apparel, accessories, steak and wine.

14. Mike Tyson

Career earnings: $700 million

The youngest heavyweight champion in the history of boxing squandered $400 million in earnings (not adjusted for inflation) before filing for bankruptcy in 2003. Tyson has reinvented himself at 51 as an actor and with business partnerships around gaming, motorcycles and fitness centers.

15. Roger Federer

Roger Federer

Roger Federer of Switzerland celebrates after beating Marin Cilic of Croatia during the ATP World Tour Finals at The O2 Arena, London. (Photo by Kieran Galvin/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Career earnings: $675 million

Federer recently re-took the crown for highest career prize money on the ATP Tour with his resurgent year on the court in 2017. His $111.9 million tally surpasses the total of Novak Djokovic ($109.8 million), as well as that of Tiger Woods, who sits at $110 million in prize money on the PGA Tour.

16. Lionel Messi

Career earnings: $600 million

Messi has been at Barcelona since age 13, and his contract extension last month will keep him at Camp Nou through the 2020-21 season. The buyout clause for Barcelona’s all-time leading scorer doubled under the new deal to $835 million.

17. Alex Rodriguez

Career earnings: $575 million

A-Rod signed two of the three biggest contracts in the history of baseball during his 22-year career and was paid $20 million by the Yankees in 2017 despite retiring last year. He has been busy in retirement as a Fox Sports analyst and a host for an upcoming CNBC reality show, in addition to his high-profile relationship with Jennifer Lopez.

18. Jeff Gordon

Career earnings: $525 million

Gordon won 93 races during his Nascar career, the modern-day record. He owns a stake in Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 car and could be in line for a larger ownership role at Hendrick Motorsports.

19. Oscar De La Hoya

Career earnings: $520 million

The Golden Boy’s 2007 fight with Floyd Mayweather was the biggest bout in pay-per-view history, with 2.5 million buys, until Mayweather faced Manny Pacquiao. De La Hoya earned a then-record $52 million because he served as the fight’s promoter through his company Golden Boy Promotions, which he founded in 2002.

20. Manny Pacquiao

Career earnings: $510 million

Pacquiao’s pay-per-view career includes 18.6 million buys and gross revenue of $1.2 billion. The Filipino senator lost to Australian Jeff Horn in his only 2017 bout. Pacquiao’s biggest career payday was his 2015 fight with Mayweather, for which he pocketed roughly $125 million.

21. Derek Jeter

Career earnings: $490 million

Jeter’s tenure as an MLB owner is off to a rocky start in South Florida. The 14-time All-Star put up only $25 million of the $1.2 billion price for the Miami Marlins, but Jeter is calling the shots as CEO of the team.

22. (tie) Peyton Manning

Career earnings: $480 million

The five-time MVP retired as the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards (71,490) and touchdowns (539) and was the NFL record-holder for earnings on and off the field. Manning remains a popular pitchman in retirement, shilling for Nationwide, DirecTV, Gatorade, Papa John’s and Otterbox. He also hosted the 2017 ESPYs.

22. (tie) Kevin Garnett

Career earnings: $480 million

Garnett earned an NBA-record $334 million in playing salary during his 22-year playing career with the Timberwolves, the Celtics and the Nets. His blockbuster six-year, $126 million contract as a 21-year-old in 1997 helped push NBA owners to lock out the players ahead of the 1998-99 season.

24. Evander Holyfield

Career earnings: $475 million

Holyfield’s career-high payday was $34 million, for his second fight versus Mike Tyson, which ended abruptly when Tyson was disqualified for biting off a chunk of Holyfield’s ear. Despite a quarter-century of boxing purses, Holyfield faced major financial issues with a foreclosure of his $10 million, 109-room Atlanta estate and lawsuits for unpaid child support.

25. Andre Agassi

Career earnings: $470 million

Agassi’s massive Nike endorsement deal earned him $140 million over 10 years, including the appreciation of the company stock he received in the pact.

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The Top 5 Emerging Crazy Tech

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A pick of some of the weirdest, coolest tech that could come hurtling our way this year.

  1. A bot that delivers toilet paper

Forgot to instal toilet paper in the loo? The Charmin RollBot is designed to carry a roll of toilet paper on two wheels. With the press of a button on your phone, the RollBot will help with your sanitary requirement.

Using Bluetooth, the bot will commence its mission; an infra-red sensor able to navigate its way to you. According to Business Insider, there’s no price or release date for RollBot, nor is it clear if it will ever be released as a consumer product. Charmin calls RollBot a “conceptual prototype”. The brand unveiled the bot last month at the CES 2020 expo in Las Vegas.

2. The Cyrcle phone

If for any reason you got bored of your rectangular handset, the circular phone is always an alternative offering a different view and take. According to the makers, the phone was designed with the Generation Z, female audience in mind. It’s round and features two headphone jacks. The device was designed by a US-based startup delivering a shape that it says is more “sensual”. The company reckons it will be ready to launch in a year’s time.

3. A smart bed

There’s nothing like a good night’s sleep. But it’s not always possible to have the best sleep every day. Or is it? There is a bed that’s guaranteed to give you your beauty sleep the way you want it.

Sleep Number Climate 360 has a mattress with features that warm your feet to help you sleep faster. It will also help you stay asleep by cooling your body, and balance your temperature with your natural wake and sleep cycles.

But what’s most intriguing is the fact that the bed also gives you a Sleep IQ score for personalized sleep insights. It measures your heart rate, breathing and movement, tracks your circadian rhythms and can show how your heart rate varies. The smart bed received the CES 2020 Best of Innovation award and is only expected to be available in 2021.

4. Self-changing trash can

For those who dread taking out the trash, this device is possible a no-brainer. Apart from its motion sensors to detect when you need to throw trash, when it’s full, it will automatically seal the trash bag and line the bin with a new one, all with a press of a button.

Even if the bin is overflowing, the top compartment will lift up so it can still seal the bag shut without any mess. The bin, called the Townew bin, was designed by a Canadian company, Knectek Labs.

5. Vertical TV

Just when we were getting used to wider TVs, it seems taller screens may soon be coming to your living room. Samsung’s Sero TV vertical-oriented will soon be hitting markets.

The TV can not only work in the traditional horizontal format, but is also able to turn on its side for playing vertical videos in portrait style.This might come in handy when watching videos from social media platforms such as TikTok or Instagram that deal primarily with vertical videos.

It sits on a stand that prevents it hitting the floor when turning, and can be paired with a phone so that it automatically orientates it correctly based on what’s beamed from the handset. According to TechRadar.com the pricing and availability are yet to be revealed, but the Sero will be leaving Korea and is headed to the US and “several global markets” later this year.

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The NBA’s Highest-Paid Players 2019-20: LeBron James Scores Record $92 Million

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NBA salaries have skyrocketed in recent years, but the biggest stars have earned more off the court than on it to this point in their careers. LeBron James, who tops the ranking for the 2019-2020 season, has made more than twice as much from endorsements than his $270 million in playing salary over his first 16 years. Kevin Durant’s on-court earnings of $187 million in 12 seasons is dwarfed by his current ten-year, $275 million Nike deal.

At $92 million, including salary and endorsements, James is the NBA’s highest-paid player for the sixth straight year. It is a record haul for an active basketball player. Nike is his biggest backer, and the company is naming a new research lab at its Beaverton, Oregon, corporate campus after James. Last month, the 17th iteration of his Nike signature shoe, the LeBron XVII, hit stores.

The four-time NBA MVP added a pair of endorsement deals in 2019 with Rimowa luggage and Walmart, which joined Coca-Cola, Beats By Dre, Blaze Pizza and NBA 2K in his sponsorship stable.

He also has a budding digital media company, Uninterrupted, and a production firm, SpringHill Entertainment, which will release a sequel to the 1996 Michael Jordan vehicle Space Jam in conjunction with Warner Bros. in 2021. All of the off-court work is worth an estimated $55 million for James this season.

The Los Angeles Lakers star’s comments about the NBA’s geopolitical mess in China also reveal the precarious position everyone in the league is in as political unrest in Hong Kong shows no signs of abating.

As the league’s 74th regular season tipped off Tuesday night, the NBA was still reeling from the crisis set off by a tweet from Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey in support of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters.

Commissioner Adam Silver backed Morey’s right to free speech, but some players didn’t, including James, who called Morey “misinformed or not really educated” on the situation. “We love China,” said Rockets point guard James Harden.

It was a rare misstep for two of the league’s more media-savvy stars, both of whom have close ties to China. Adidas, which has Harden as the face of its basketball business, generated more revenue in China last year than in North America, and the Rockets are China’s most popular team after drafting native son Yao Ming in 2002.

Nike’s China revenue topped $6 billion during the last fiscal year, and the country is a growth leader for the brand. James has represented Nike on 15 off-season trips to China. The sports giant pays James more than $30 million annually to pitch its products around the globe.

And the threat of losing its growth trajectory in China could have far-reaching consequences for team valuations.

But back at home, the financials of NBA franchises remain solid, which is good for player salaries. The league’s salary cap is soaring, fueled largely by the nine-year, $24 billion TV deal with ESPN and TNT signed in 2014.

NBA players are entitled to 51% of the league’s “basketball-related income” as laid out in the collective bargaining agreement. The rich TV deal and budding international business means 46 players will earn a playing salary of at least $25 million this season, according to Spotrac. The $25 million club had zero members five years ago. And unlike in the NFL, every dollar is guaranteed upon signing.

The NBA's Highest-Paid Players
The Highest-Paid NBA Players - Dataviz

On-court salaries in the NBA are capped based on a player’s number of years in the league and accolades earned in cases in which an award like MVP entitles them to a bigger percentage of a team’s salary cap.

So the pecking order for the elite stars is ultimately determined by their off-court income, with the shoe deal the biggest component of those earnings. There are ten active NBA players who will make at least $10 million from their shoe contracts this year, by Forbes’ count.

Stephen Curry comes in at No. 2 on the earnings list this year and is expected to generate $85 million this season, including $45 million off the court. Under Armour represents nearly half of his off-court income.

Curry’s $40.2 million salary from the Golden State Warriors is the highest in the history of the NBA; he’s in the third season of the five-year, $201 million contract he signed in 2017. Curry’s production company, Unanimous Media, has a development deal with Sony Pictures.

Unanimous’ first movie, Breakthrough, was released in April, with Curry playing a role in marketing the Christian-oriented film, which grossed $50 million on a $14 million budget.

Durant has the NBA’s second-biggest annual shoe contract after James’ at an estimated $26 million this season. His total earnings from his playing salary and endorsements is $73 million. Nike sells more KD shoes in China than in North America, according to Durant’s business partner Rich Kleiman.

Like James and Curry, Durant has his own production company, which is co-producing a new basketball-themed drama, Swagger, that is inspired by Durant’s youth basketball experience and will air on the Apple TV+ streaming service.

The NBA’s ten highest-paid players are expected to earn a cumulative $600 million this year, including $250 million from endorsements, appearances, merchandise and media.

A Closer Look At The NBA's Highest-Paid Players
#10: Damian Lillard

Lillard signed a four-year, $196 million supermax extension in July with the Portland Trail Blazers that kicks in for the 2021-2022 season. The final year is worth $54.25 million for the 2013 NBA Rookie of the Year and four-time All-Star. Lillard’s Adidas shoe deal is worth roughly $10 million annually.

#9: Giannis Antetokounmpo

The “Greek Freak” is eligible for a five-year, $248 million contract extension next summer with the Milwaukee Bucks. It would be the richest deal in the history of the sport. In June, Nike unveiled the first signature shoe, Zoom Freak 1, for the 2019 NBA MVP.

#8: Chris Paul

Only Curry will earn more on the court this season than Paul, who was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder in July. Paul was an early investor and ambassador for Beyond Meat, whose stock price has quadrupled since its initial public offering in May.

#7: Klay Thompson

Thompson’s coach, Steve Kerr, says the sharpshooter is likely to miss the entire season after tearing his ACL during the NBA Finals in June. But he’ll still collect his full $32.7 million salary—almost double last year’s—under the first season of the five-year, $190 million pact he signed in July. Thompson is the basketball face of Chinese shoe brand Anta.

#6: Kyrie Irving

Irving joins his third team in four years this season. His four-year deal with the Brooklyn Nets is worth $136 million and includes an additional $4.3 million in potential incentives. A viral Pepsi ad campaign featuring Irving as the elderly Uncle Drew eventually led to a 2018 feature film; Irving has partial ownership of the character. Irving is another Beyond Meat investor.

#5: James Harden

The 2018 NBA MVP purchased a minority stake in the Houston Dynamo of MLS this summer for $15 million. Harden also holds equity stakes in BodyArmor, Stance socks and Art of Sport. His salary with the Rockets jumps $8 million this season with the start of a contract extension he signed in 2017.

#4: Russell Westbrook

Westbrook’s five-year, $207 million contract is the largest deal in the NBA right now. The eight-time All Star extended his deal with Nike’s Jordan brand in 2017 for another ten years and in 2018 received his first signature shoe, the Why Not Zer0. Westbrook has averaged a triple-double for three straight seasons.

#3: Kevin Durant

Durant is likely to miss the entire season recovering from a torn Achilles tendon suffered in June during the NBA Finals. He’ll still pocket his full first-year salary from the Brooklyn Nets under the four-year, $164 million deal he signed in July. He’s invested in more than 30 startups, including Postmates and investing app Acorns.

#2: Stephen Curry

The two-time MVP used some of his hoops money in June to buy a $31 million home in Atherton, California, with his wife, Ayesha. He also made a seven-figure donation this summer to Howard University to help launch a golf program at the school and recently signed an endorsement partnership with Callaway Golf. Curry became the only player to win the NBA MVP unanimously when he won his second of back-to-back awards in 2016.

#1: LeBron James

James signed an endorsement in 2019 with Walmart that is rooted in community work. He worked with the retail giant on its Fight Hunger. Spark Change. initiative, as well as the company’s back-to-school campaign. James is part of an investment group that owns 19 Blaze Pizza franchises across Illinois and Florida.

-Forbes; Kurt Badenhausen

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These Are The Biggest Givers On The Forbes 400

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This has been a year of record-setting in billionaire philanthropy. In September, Stewart and Lynda Resnick, owners of POM Wonderful and Fiji Water, pledged $750 million to the California Institute of Technology for environmental sustainability research.

In June, Blackstone cofounder Stephen Schwarzman donated $189 million to the University of Oxford—the largest single gift to the school since the Renaissance—to fund its work on humanities. The same month, Broadcom billionaire Henry Samueli pledged $100 million to UCLA’s engineering school, the largest gift ever to the department. 

Forbes tracks gifts and pledges like these as part of our ongoing coverage of charitable giving by the country’s richest people.

READ MORE | The World’s Most Generous Billionaires Outside Of The US

For the second year in a row, Forbes tracked the philanthropic giving of the richest 400 individuals in the U.S. and gave each member of The Forbes 400 list a philanthropy score. The score ranged from 1 to 5,  with 5 being the most philanthropic. List members for whom we could find no charitable giving information received an N.A. (not available).

Philanthropy Forbes 400
FORBES

Though the number of the biggest givers—those who scored a 5—stayed flat in 2019, those who received scores of 4 and 3 increased compared with a year ago.

The changes reflect two things: The country’s richest have gotten somewhat more generous, and Forbes had more information to work with this year. Some billionaires were willing to share information on charitable giving for the 2019 list who didn’t in 2018. As a result, four dozen people got higher scores this year than a year ago. 

This year, Warren Buffett led the list of top givers with $38.8 billion in lifetime giving, which is 32% of his net worth, and earned the top score of 5.

He was followed by last year’s biggest giver, Bill Gates, who has donated $38.5 billion so far. Two people who scored a 5 last year—Paul Allen and David Koch—passed away.

READ MORE: Forbes Africa | 8 Years And Growing

Billionaires like DreamWorks Pictures founder David Geffen and WhatsApp cofounder Brian Acton moved up to the top score after each scored a 4 last year. According to the latest tax filings, Geffen gave $38 million to his foundation in 2017, which brought his lifetime giving to about $1 billion.

Acton and his wife Tegan, on the other hand, have been expanding their philanthropic network, Wildcard Giving, which they founded in 2014 after Acton sold WhatsApp to Facebook. The couple has given away more than $1 billion to charitable causes.

2019 Forbes 400 Giving
FORBES

Forty-one billionaires, including Netflix cofounder Reed Hastings and software billionaire Philip “Terry” Ragon, got higher scores this year than last year. Some, like Stephen Schwarzman, earned a higher score thanks to giving in the past year.

Others scored higher because we were able to find more information about their lifetime giving, through new public documents or details provided to us by Forbes 400 members or their spokespeople. In September, a Los Angeles Times report revealed that B.

Wayne Hughes, cofounder of self-storage behemoth Public Storage, had anonymously donated about $400 million to the University of Southern California in his lifetime. Hughes, who scored a 2 last year, jumped up to a 4.

Private equity tycoon Robert F. Smith’s pledge in May to wipe out the student debt of the entire 2019 graduating class of Morehouse College generated lots of headlines but did not end up changing his score because the gift wasn’t big enough to move him up a notch. In many cases, fortunes grew faster than lifetime philanthropic giving. 

READ MORE | Noëlla Coursaris Musunka The Trailblazer In The Congo

To come up with the information on which we based our score, Forbes reporters looked at tax filings for charitable foundations, annual statements, SEC filings and news about new gifts. When possible, we interviewed Forbes 400 members and executives from their foundations. Some Forbes 400 members said they have chosen to donate anonymously, citing religious or privacy concerns. 

Our score is based on total lifetime giving and what percent of their fortune members had given away. We weighted these two factors equally. Some individuals were then bumped up or down based on several other factors, including whether they had signed the Giving Pledge, whether they had pledged significant donations, how personally involved they were in their charitable giving, and how quickly and effectively their private foundations distributed dollars. We didn’t count pledges or announced gifts that have yet to be paid out, but we took commitment to philanthropy—or lack thereof—into account.

Forbes has been tracking the wealth of the richest Americans since 1982. “Some of [the members] told us to drop dead,” James Michaels, veteran editor of Forbes, told the New York Times in a 1982 story about the list’s debut. “They said they wanted no part of it, that they’d sue us.

This happens in reporting.” At times, our reporting on philanthropic giving received a similar response. “The new philanthropy ranking is fundamentally flawed, in that it is biased in favor of those who make their gifts widely known, and against donors who choose to make their charitable contributions anonymously,” one current Forbes 400 member (who did not wish to be named) wrote to us last year.

-Deniz Çam; Forbes

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