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A 77-year-old Scottish oil tycoon used his time on stage at a high-profile NYC philanthropy event to reprimand American billionaires for failing to donate money to countries outside the US

Taylor Nicole Rogers , Business Insider US
 Oct 30, 2019, 09:14 AM
Wood, 77, built a $1.5 billion fortune running energy services firm The Wood Group until his retirement in 2012.
Carnegie Corporation
  • American billionaires don't do enough to help underprivileged people outside the United States, billionaire philanthropist Sir Ian Wood said at the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy Ceremony at the New York Public Library on October 16.
  • Out of nine medalists, Wood was the only non-American to receive the prestigious award, and one of two recognised for work outside the United States.
  • Wood built a $1.5 billion (R21 billion) fortune running energy services firm The Wood Group until his retirement in 2012, according to Forbes.
  • Go to for more stories.

Scotland's second-richest man has a problem with how his American counterparts give their money away.

Billionaire Americans don't spend enough of their money on international causes, Sir Ian Wood told a group of the nation's most prolific philanthropists at the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy Ceremony in New York Public on October 16. Other honourees at the event included big names like Robert F. Smith and George Lucas.

Wood, 77, built a $1.5 billion (R21 billion) fortune running energy services firm The Wood Group until his retirement in 2012, according to Forbes. Wood was at the ceremony to receive an award for offering small business loans to 70,000 tea small farmers in Africa through the Wood Foundation.

"Charity must not end at home," Wood said. "The developing world, which is more than half the world's population, faces a completely different scale of hardship and suffering than the Western world."

According to Giving USA's annual report on philanthropy, Americans gave $427.71 billion (R6.2 trillion) to US charities in 2018, but only $22.88 billion (R334 billion) went to international causes.

International giving comes with legal and cultural challenges. Wood acknowledged this fact, but noted that since most philanthropists are also successful business people, they should be able to figure out how to use their existing knowledge to make it work.

"The dollar, in the very poor areas, would have a much greater obvious impact in terms of any measure as opposed to what happens at home and there are so many needy areas," Wood said.

Wood's criticism aside, a handful of prominent American billionaires have made international work a key part of their philanthropic agendas. Just look at Bill and Melinda Gates: Several of their largest projects have been outside the United States, Business Insider previously reported. The couple donated more than $50 million (R731 million) in 2014 to help fight the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa, and they pledged $38 million (R556 million) to a Japanese pharmaceutical company in 2016 that is working on creating a low-cost polio vaccine.

Wood was the only non-American honoured at the event, and one of two philanthropists honoured for projects outside of the United States

The Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy is awarded to influential philanthropists every two years by the nonprofit organisations founded by Andrew Carnegie, the organisation said in a press release.

Those organisations include Carnegie Mellon University and Carnegie Hall. Eight other billionaires - Anne Earhart, Mellody Hobson, Henry R. Kravis, Marie-Josée Kravis, George Lucas, Morton L. Mandel, Leonard Tow, and Robert F. Smith - were also given medals by the Carnegie Corporation for their philanthropic work at the ceremony.

In his acceptance speech, Robert F. Smith noted that he was inspired by the small act of philanthropy he witnessed his mom making as he was growing up. Smith has been making headlines in 2019 for first pledging $34 million (R497 million) to pay off student loans for the graduating class of Morehouse College, and then expanding that pledge to also include those students' parents' education debts.

Meanwhile, telecommunications billionaire Leonard Tow used his acceptance speech to highlight that the Giving Pledge is not growing "as rapidly as we had hoped." The Giving Pledge was started by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett in 2010; Tow and his now-deceased wife signed on in September 2012.

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