San Francisco: Mark Zuckerberg will put 99 percent of his Facebook Inc shares, currently worth about $45 billion, into a new philanthropy project focussing on human potential and equality, he and his wife said in a letter addressed to their newborn daughter.
The plan, which was posted on the Facebook founder and Chief Executive`s page, and has attracted more than 360,000 `likes`, follows other high-profile billionaires such as Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates, who have pledged and set up foundations to dedicate their massive fortunes to philanthropic endeavours.
Thirty-one year old Zuckerberg, who will control the new initiative and remain in charge of the world`s largest online social network, said he would sell or give up to $1 billion in shares in each of the next three years.
He will keep a controlling stake in Facebook, valued at $303 billion as of Tuesday`s close, for what the company called the "foreseeable future." Zuckerberg said he plans to remain CEO of Facebook for "many, many years to come."
The move is not Zuckerberg`s first in the world of philanthropy. When he was 26, he signed the Giving Pledge, which invites the world`s wealthiest individuals and families to commit to giving more than half of their wealth to philanthropy or charitable causes over their lifetime or in their will.
"Mark and Priscilla are breaking the mould with this breathtaking commitment," billionaire investor Warren Buffett said on Facebook. "A combination of brains, passion and resources on this scale will change the lives of millions. On behalf of future generations, I thank them."
Buffett himself pledged Berkshire Hathaway Inc stock worth $31 billion at the time to Gates` foundation in 2006, which was the largest single gift at the time.
Zuckerberg is relatively young to commit so much of his wealth. Microsoft Corp co-founder Gates was 45 in 2000, the year he and his wife founded the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Buffett was 76 in 2006, the year he committed to give away all of his Berkshire Hathaway stock to philanthropic organizations.
In welcoming the birth of his first child on his Facebook page, Zuckerberg posted a photo of himself, his wife, Priscilla Chan and their new daughter, Maxima, along with a post entitled `A letter to our daughter.`
In the 2,220-word letter, Zuckerberg and Chan touched on issues including health, education, Internet access and learning before announcing the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which aims to "advance human potential and promote equality."
They plan to give away 99 percent of their Facebook shares over their lifetimes to advance the initiative, which was formed as a limited liability company controlled by the two. It will begin by focussing on curing disease, Internet connectivity, community building and personalized learning - or the idea that technology can help students learn at different paces.
Max Chan Zuckerberg was born early last week — though Facebook did not specify her birth date — and weighed 7 lbs 8 ounces at birth. Last month, Zuckerberg announced he would take two months of paternity leave after the birth.
Chan and Zuckerberg have so far committed $1.6 billion to their philanthropy. They have given several donations this year, including to public schools, initiatives to bring better wireless Internet access and to San Francisco General Hospital, where Chan works as a paediatrician.
Zuckerberg and Chan said they will share more details when they return from their maternity and paternity leaves.