That's the controversial question raised by Wall Street Journal writer Robert Frank in his The Wealth Report blog. Can a man who gave away "$900 million over the course of his life" be considered stingy? Frank clearly does, because he raises the question - and argues that it's all relative. He writes:
Now $900 million may sound like an awful lot to most people, and it
is. But compared with Bill Gates, who’s pledged to give away the bulk
of his $51 billion fortune to his family foundation, Mr. Allen’s gifts might appear relatively light.
doesn’t help that Mr. Allen is known for his personal luxuries: He
reportedly spent more than $250 million for his latest yacht, Octopus.
Add to that his fleet of private jets, his other two mega-yachts, and
his sports teams, and Mr. Allen could certainly be in the running for
the Conspicuous Consumer of the Year award.
But the post really gets interesting in comments. Here's one typical reaction (keep in mind, this is the WSJ):
It’s his money and he has given away 900 millon and you infer he is not doing enough–GET BENT !!!
Others are more thoughtful, noting that among billionaires, some aim to change the world now (Gates) and some plan to divest later on (Buffett). And at least one pointed out that Allen invests in for-profit enterprises that have philanthropic aims, a la Richard Branson. Interestingly, the cause of all this was the Chronicle of Philanthropy's annual list of most generous Americans. Do we need a new definition of "generous" for our changing world?