The Billionaire Who Wasn't: How Chuck Feeney Made and Gave Away a Fortune Without Anyone Knowing
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The Billionaire Who Wasn't: How Chuck Feeney Made and Gave Away a Fortune Without Anyone Knowing

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  205 ratings  ·  33 reviews
Achievements of Atlantic Philanthropies and Chuck Feeney.
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published September 25th 2007 by PublicAffairs (first published September 23rd 2007)
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I picked up this book thinking I would read about a man who through entreprenurism made a fortune and then gave it all away. I wanted to be inspired by Chuck Feeney's story: a young man with nothing to his name makes good and does good with what he made. Instead, the story was so bogged down in details that I gave up on the book before the inspiring part could be read. I am impressed by Chuck's story but not by the way it was written. I would recommend this book to people who like to be bogged...more
Janet Eshenroder
Lucky for the world that Charles Feeney fashioned himself after Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie felt the duty of a man of wealth was to set an example of modest, ostentatious living, provide moderately for the legitimate wants of those dependent upon him, and after doing so "to consider all surplus revenues which come to him simply as trust funds which he is called upon to administer . . . to produce the most beneficial results for the community."
The book left some uncomfortable feelings. I give kudo...more
This book was given to me by a Boston philanthropist who said he had been so inspired by Chuck Feeney's story that he ahd purchased two dozen copies and was giving them to anyone who was interested...

The story itself is compelling. Feeney, a renaissance man who founded the "Duty Free Shops" concept and built a business empire in the aftermath of WWII, secretly gave away billions of dollars, supported peace in Northern Ireland and education around the world.

The book itself chronicles Feeney's lif...more
A fascinating read about an extraordinary businessman and how he built a retailing empire, while later turning those same skills to give away his fortune with amazing results. Chuck Feeney is an extraordinary individual, from whom we can learn a lot about the true importance of wealth. This should be distributed to all billionaires (and any other so called "high net worth individual"), if only to have them think deeply about what it is they can do with their money.
Kristin Harvey
Loved this book, it's a must read if you're interested in development and fundraising. As a detailed look into Chuck Feeney's background, education, army experience, business savvy, you see his philanthropic efforts run throughout. Seems fitting to Chuck's character to have this type of thorough biography, and I'm glad we have record of his journey. I'm inspired by the generosity and thankful for the perspective to think big.
Excellent. Chuck Feeney (the billionaire who wasn't) founded DFS (Duty Free Stores) and gave his fortune to charity while still quite young. He hated paying taxes, and tried to do everything tax free.

He was action oriented, an excellent entrepreneur, and an excellent father. Eventually, he also became an excellent entrepreneur with his focus on "giving while living", and "spending out of existence".

"I had one idea that never changed in my mind—that you should use your wealth to help people. I tr...more
The story of Chuck Feeney intrigued me. What would drive someone to build a billion dollar business, and then work feverishly to unbuild its wealth?

When I first started reading this, the narrative moved so quickly and had so many details, that I thought the second half of the book would be non-stop analysis. It turns out, however, that the author was suck a journalist, that he couldn't help but keep the pace up. Curiously, he didn't create a strong meta-narrative. That Feeney did this is clear,...more
Wow, wow, wow!!! An intense page-turner as the businesses develop from real boots-on-ground gumption to insane levels of cash generation. An inspiration for philanthropic giving. Of course Feeney has an opportunity to provide funding that most people can't, but there is one bone thrown at the average giver where he says that a burn patient doesn't care if their treatment came from a billionaire or a $200 donor. What Obama could do with less than $50 per donor and the Salvation Army does with spa...more
Charles Roberts
Perhaps the greatest philanthropist ever, who operated in anonymity for nearly 50 years, Chuck Feeney's story is awe-inspiring.
The book chronicles Feeney's meteoric rise from working class beginnings in Elizabeth, New Jersey to the CEO of Duty Free Shopping, capturing one of first truly global markets. I was most impressed with his emulation of Andrew Carnegie, and his near-obsessive preoccupation with personal divestment.
Getting a rare inside look into the business model, and relationships made...more
A heart warming insight into the life of a great man. Author has captured not only the details of the person but also of his style of engaging in business quite deftly. The book reads like a piece of fiction at times. It is also a good education in building successful businesses. More than anything Chuck points to the potential inherent in an individual as well as how much good a determined individual can bring about to the world. The scale and extent of his contributions is paralleled only by h...more
Chuck Feeney is one of the founders of the Duty Free Stores you find in the airports and at border crossings. He quietly made a billion dollars, and then just as quietly gave it all away. I loved reading about his frugality (only flew coach until he turned 75), generosity to others (happily gave 100 million to his ex-wife), and desire to do good in the world. It's a shame that Feeney's desire to give away his money rather than accumulate things makes him such an odd fascination. A fun and inspir...more
Aliko Ban
By being such an extreme business success, and then an extreme philanthropist, Feeney is a memorable character. His down to earth humility, despite having so much success and wealth, are inspiring and admirable. Although I got to my current similar beliefs about frugality and giving in a more roundabout way than Feeney, I'm proud to see shades of like mindedness with thus great role model. The biographer's storytelling style is brisk, well organized, and fascinating as the story unfolds.
Fred R.
A well-written book about a great person. I was one of the fortunate ones to work for Mr. Chuck Feeney in the 1980's while at DFS and got a good feel for his humanity while working for his company. The author does a nice job of covering the high growth period of Japanese overseas tourism and the way in which Mr. Feeney was able to capitalize on future opportunities that he was able to foresee.
Fascinating inside look at a remarkable man and the inner workings of the duty free world and the state of philanthropy across the globe. Great mix of personal and business stories. At times the author strayed too far into the minutiae on deal structures and other aspects of the business side and not enough on the personal side, but overall was an inspiring and uplifting read.
Enoch Chhabra
Love it! Insightful details on the building of Chuck Fenney's Business. The tension between business partners that seem to arise more so when they become extremely profitable then when they were first fighting to keep the business afloat. Chuck's view on philanthropy, of giving it all away while he is still alive is enlightening.
Very interesting story. I know the subject somewhat as I worked for his company for about four years. This is a really good story, poorly told. It gets pretty boring in spots.

Chuck Feeney is a very unique individual. We need many more like him in the business world, instead of the Nardelli's and that ilk.
Fascinating story of the evolution of one of today's most influential philanthropists. I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 because I thought it was overly positive and flattering of Chuck Feeney. It's understandable given the kind of access the author was given, but it was still a bit annoying.
Laura Gardner
I say it was OK only b/c I think the subject is interesting. The author can't write and the editors didn't do their job. I muddled through this for about three weeks and now I'm giving up. I wish someone else had written this book!!
Can say much about the writing but the subject topic is worth every read if you are interested in non-fiction and one of the very understated philanthropic person/ organization of our time. thumbs up!
Laura Baverman
Cool story of the risks this guy took to make a hell of a lot of money, his adventures throughout the world and his ultimate sacrifice to make a difference in so many lives...
Great insight on how he became a top entrepreneur. His personality is very intriguing, worth reading about.
Just a great book indeed.
This was a great book about a great man. Truly an inspirational human being. I highly recommend this book to everyone.
Fascinating story of a secretive man who had huge impact. Such a contrast to our notions of men of wealth.
If you're interested in the background and personalities behind smart businesses, then check out this book.
A good read about a fascinating individual. Not the best book I've ever read, but a remarkable story.
A great contrarian way of life, evoking thoughts of "need" vs "want". Yes, poorly written.
I loved this book.
I read it a while back, but recommend it to everyone.
Clearly a favorite. Very interesting. Story of Duty free shops
Should've been a more inspiring story, but the writing was tedious.
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