It's a highly exclusive club that includes men like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, and on Tuesday it got its second German member. Hasso Plattner, the founder of business software company SAP, has committed to donate at least half of his multibillion euro wealth to charity, thus fulfilling the Giving Pledge donor initiative.
Giving Pledge organizers announced Plattner's acceptance into the club on Tuesday. German business publication manager magazin estimates the 69 year old's wealth at €5.95 billion ($8 billion). Buffet and Gates have occupied positions two and three in the Forbes list of the world's richest people for years now. The two men began the initiative three years ago and agreed to donate hundreds of millions of dollars to charity -- both during their lifetimes and after they die. Most members of the Giving Pledge are based in the United States.
The exclusive club has one rule: To become a member, billionaires have to agree to donate at least 50 percent of their total wealth. It is left to the donor to determine how that money is spent, although there is an expectation that the money will not be used for personal gain or inappropriately. When they announced the initiative three years ago, Gates and Buffett said they had faith that people would act responsibly. "The pledge is a moral commitment to give, not a legal contract," Buffet said at the time.
'I Want To Give Back to Society'
In a letter announcing his entry, to the Giving Pledge, Plattner thanked Germany's generous education system for his success as a software entrepreneur.
"I had the great privilege to study at one of the best German technical universities, the University of Karlsruhe, and the education was nearly free. Without question this became the foundation for my personal success." On the one hand, he wrote, he felt obliged to support the company he once founded, "and on the other hand I want to give back to the society which enabled my education." Plattner said a foundation he set up in his own name provides a way to do both.
Although he has also started other companies, Plattner established a global reputation as the founder of SAP, the world's leading maker of enterprise software to manage businesses with €16.22 billion in annual sales. SAP has more than 232,000 customers worldwide in practically every sector. The software company has 65,000 employees.
In addition to Plattner, 11 other members have been accepted into the club from eight countries, including British entrepreneur Richard Branson and Russian oligarch Vladimir Potanin. A total of 105 individuals and families are now members of the club. Representing Germany are Plattner and German-American investor and art collector Nicolas Berggruen.
115 Billionaires in Germany
When he launched the initiative in 2010, Gates already began seeking out billions from Germany, but his calls were met with little enthusiasm. "That's too blatant" for people here, the wealth manager of one of the billionaires contacted by Gates told SPIEGEL at the time.
He added that Germans are no strangers to philanthropy and that many of the country's wealthiest had already long given significantly larger proportions of their wealth than the Americans to nonprofit organizations. SAP co-founder Dietmar Hopp, for example, didn't only use his money to buy the football club TSG 1899 Hoffenheim. He also gave €2.9 billion to create a nonprofit foundation. And Klaus Tschira, also part of the founding generation of SAP, has given over half of his assets to a foundation.
In October of 2012, manager magazin estimated that the country is home to 115 billionaires, up from 108 the previous year despite the euro crisis.