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Branson, Sainsbury join Bill Gates in committing half their wealth to charity

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By Noel Young, Correspondent

February 19, 2013 | 4 min read

Richard Branson has joined the worldwide list of billionaires pledged to commit half their wealth to charity.

Branson and wife Joan join the pledgers

Since Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates formed the Giving Pledge in 2010, the members have been all-American. According to Buffet, they felt they had enough on their hands with the US.

That changes later today, reports Forbes magazine, when the Gates Foundation will announce that the Giving Pledge has expanded its reach globally, starting with 12 non-U.S. signatories from 8 different countries. The U.K.’s Richard Branson and Thailand’s Vincent Tan are two of the big names on the the list.

Besides Branson (along with his wife, Joan), other UK pledgers are John Caudwell, Chris and Jamie Cooper-Hohn, Mo Ibrahim, and David Sainsbury.

Other new Pledgers are: Andrew and Nicola Forrest (Australia), Patrice and Precious Motsepe (South Africa), Hasso Plattner (Germany), Vladimir Potanin (Russia), Azim Premji (India) and industrialist Victor Pinchuk, Ukraine’s second-richest person .

These new “Pledgers” will swell the group’s total to 105. Buffett credits Bill Gates for the international expansion, likening his frequent globetrotting to a “trade mission" .

It wasn’t originally an easy sell. Shortly after launching the Giving Pledge, Gates and Buffett held group dinners with moguls in countries like China, India and Saudi Arabia.

“The decision was already inside me,” says Pinchuk,who Forbes currently estimates is worth $4.2 billion. “Philanthropy is a very important part of my life. In the 21st century, to be seen as a contemporary businessman, solving global problems is as important as making profits.”

Each of these people, according to Buffett, isn’t just committing to what in aggregate totals more than $10 billion of charitable good, says Forbes.

The Giving Pledge is less about the financial promise than a public statement meant to inspire others, and a network that compares notes, especially at the group’s annual meeting in May, "in order to increase the efficacy of their charitable endeavours." says Forbes.

Buffett says that this group of new Pledgers was specifically responsible for advocating the movement in their respective countries, serving both as role models and recruiters.

One new Pledger, South Africa’s Mostepe, went to Omaha for a one-on-one with Buffett, telling him that the Pledge had become increasingly top of mind among the ultra-wealthy of his country.

“If we can get to South Africa,” says Buffett, “we can get to a lot of places.”

Pinchuk says that Gates has already asked him who else from Eastern Europe might also be a candidate. “Frankly speaking, I have some names in mind who potentially will be interested to formally join this,” says Pinchuk.

The ultimate goal, Buffett adds, is to get the Giving Pledge into every part of the world. “We always hoped that the U.S. would be an example,” says Buffett. “We’ve exported a lot of good ideas from this country.”

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