Tom Talks about Philanthropy

Read an interesting story recently about billionaire businessman Theodore J. Forstmann and it got me thinking. Forstman is 71 and he has brain cancer. He has made it his mission to transform a business (the IMG talent agency) he purchased in 2004 into a profitable company with a bright future.

Why would a guy worth billions want to spend his possibly last days on earth worrying about making more money? Does he think he’ll take it with him?

Before you answer, keep in mind that this is someone who helped create the leveraged buyout industry in the 1970s and is credited with coining the phrase “Barbarians at the Gate” to describe his industry.

Not exactly the warm, fuzzy type!

Or maybe he is. Forstman has been quietly supporting children’s groups throughout Africa for years. He also adopted two boys from South Africa more than a decade ago after being invited there to speak by Nelson Mandela.

He has decided to turbo charge his (potentially) last business venture into a money-making machine that can fuel investment in African children for years to come. When a reporter asked him why he was committed to helping kids in Africa, his response was unsentimental and precise: “They’re helpless,” he is quoted as replying.

Most of us never will be worth billions but that doesn’t mean we can’t lend some support to those in need. And as successful business leaders, I think we have a special obligation to share some of our good fortune with others.

That’s why we started the Intertech Foundation in 2003, which provides financial support to families who have terminally ill children and expenses they are struggling to cover. Our grants don’t turn anyone into millionaires but they do ensure that grieving parents can spend precious remaining time taking care of and enjoying their child instead of stressing out about paying bills.

Giving something back on a regular basis is the right thing to do. Don’t wait until you’re in your 70s and facing down mortality to make it part of your business plan.