The Atlantic Philanthropies
Founded1982 (1982)
FounderChuck Feeney
DissolvedSeptember 14, 2020 (2020-09-14)
FocusAgeing, youth, human rights, poverty, progressive advocacy[1]
Key people
Christopher Oechsli (President and CEO)
Martin O'Brien (Senior Vice President of Programmes)
Endowment$1.4 billion (2012)[2]

The Atlantic Philanthropies (AP) was a private foundation created in 1982 by Irish-American businessman Chuck Feeney. The Atlantic Philanthropies focused its giving on health, social, and politically left-leaning public policy causes in Australia, Bermuda, Ireland, South Africa, the United States and Vietnam.[3] It was among the largest foreign charitable donors in each of the countries in which it operated,[4] and was the single largest funder of programs that encouraged the civic engagement of older people and of comprehensive immigration reform in the United States.[5][6] With the single largest advocacy grant ever made by a foundation, the Atlantic Philanthropies committed $27 million to win passage of the Affordable Care Act in the United States. About half of the Atlantic Philanthropies' grants were made in donations that allow lobbying.[3]

The Atlantic Philanthropies commenced a spend-down process in 2012, and planned to fully close down by 2020 after the remaining portion of Feeney's fortune was donated.[2][7][8] On September 14, 2020, Feeney signed the documents to officially close the nonprofit in an online ceremony that included a congratulatory video message from Bill Gates.[9]


Irish-American businessman Chuck Feeney established the Atlantic Philanthropies in Bermuda in 1982.[10] The organization made its first grant of $7 million that same year to Cornell University.[11]

Feeney, who co-founded Duty Free Shoppers (DFS), transferred all of his assets and his entire 38.75% ownership stake in DFS to what became the Atlantic Philanthropies in 1984.[10] For the first fifteen years of Atlantic's existence, donations were made anonymously, and organizations receiving grants were required to sign contracts agreeing to not reveal the source of their donations.[12][10]

Atlantic's charitable giving remained anonymous until 1997, when a business dispute Feeney was involved in forced him to disclose the funding for Atlantic.[13]

The President and CEO of the Atlantic Philanthropies was Christopher Oechsli as of 2011.[14] He was appointed in 2011, succeeding Gara LaMarche. Martin O'Brien was appointed Senior Vice President of Programmes shortly thereafter.

The Atlantic Philanthropies donated over US$8 billion from 1982 to 2020. The Atlantic Philanthropies was a limited-life foundation (following plans for a spend-down put forward in 2002),[15] which stated it would close its doors upon the successful completion of its task of giving away to charity all of founder Chuck Feeney's fortune (except for $2 million he had set aside decades earlier for the retirement of himself and his wife). In 2020, Feeney announced that the foundation had successfully achieved its purpose, and on September 14, 2020, he signed the documents to officially close the nonprofit in an online ceremony.


AP concentrated its donations in the areas of aging, children and youth, population and health, and reconciliation and human rights.[16] As of 2013, the Atlantic Philanthropies had distributed $6.5 billion,[17] which would increase to over $8 billion by the time of its dissolution.


In Australia, AP donated more than $AUD500 million, including $AUD250 million in Queensland. These donations have been directed toward the building or expansion of 20 research facilities in Australia.[18]

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, AP controversially supported the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission in its work to develop and promote proposals for a Bill of Rights for the region. It has also funded a coalition of civil society groups, the Bill of Rights Consortium.[19]

Republic of Ireland

AP helped to fund the Irish Government's research funding mechanism, the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (aka PRTLI), through its five cycles from 1998 to around 2018.[20]

AP invested over $1 billion in third-level education in Ireland, funding research facilities at the University of Limerick and Dublin City University as well as a library and sports facility at Trinity College Dublin.[21] AP's grants in Ireland have been credited by some for stimulating the Irish economy in the 1990s.[22]

In 2005 it funded the short-lived Centre for Public Inquiry.[23]

In 2009, AP indicated that it would grant €80 million in Ireland in 2009 to children, elderly and human rights projects.[24] In 2011, AP awarded a €1.2 million grant to Barnardo's, one of Ireland's best-known children's charities.[25]

In 2004–13, AP provided $11.5m and political advice to the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network and three other Irish gay-rights groups.[26][27][28] Prior to the 2015 same-sex marriage referendum, Catholic commentator Breda O'Brien characterised this as "American money buy[ing] an Irish referendum".[28]

As of 2014, a total of $226 million in Atlantic grants have leveraged $1.3 billion of government money to the Irish university system.[29]

United States

In March 2009, AP pledged $125 million to the University of California, San Francisco to fund a medical center at the Mission Bay campus. At the time, it was the single largest grant the Atlantic Philanthropies had given.[30] The project broke ground in October 2010.[31]

From 2008-10, AP donated $27 million to Health Care for America Now (HCAN) to support their efforts to pass the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.[32] It was the single largest advocacy grant ever made by a foundation.[33]

In 2011, AP gave $350 million to Cornell University to help build Cornell Tech, a new graduate school campus on New York City's Roosevelt Island. At the time, the gift was the largest donation in the university's history.[34]


From 1997 to 2013, AP donated $381.5 million towards health and educational causes in Vietnam, including funds to modernize the country’s public and primary health systems, promote healthier behavior (including backing a country-wide anti-smoking campaign and an initiative that resulted in a national law mandating helmet use by motorcycle riders) and revitalize libraries and universities.

Culminating grants

In 2014, the Atlantic Philanthropies announced that it was making a series of major culminating grants, including one to foster peace and human rights in Northern Ireland, another to help fund a national dementia strategy in Ireland, and a third to expand the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington, D.C.-based liberal think tank.[35]

Recipients of 2016 culminating grants include the London School of Economics, for support of the International Inequalities Institute, and the Rhodes Trust, to fund the newly established Atlantic Institute.[36]

The Atlantic Philanthropies awarded UC San Francisco and Trinity College Dublin $177 million to create the Global Brain Health Institute, a groundbreaking venture to stem the precipitous rise in dementia by training and connecting a new generation of leaders worldwide.[37]


  1. ^ Preston, Caroline (June 30, 2011). "Atlantic Philanthropies Sends Positive Signal to Advocacy Groups". Chronicle of Philanthropy. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
  2. ^ a b "The Long Goodbye: Atlantic Philanthropies Approaching The End". The Nonprofit Times. July 29, 2014. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
  3. ^ a b Preston, Julia (November 14, 2014). "The Big Money Behind the Push for an Immigration Overhaul". New York Times. Retrieved 14 May 2015.
  4. ^ Eskin, Jim (December 23, 2007). "Giving while living makes sense". Dallas Business Journal. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
  5. ^ Anft, Michael (November 4, 2005). "Getting on Board With Boomers". Chronicle of Philanthropy. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
  6. ^ Preston, Caroline (April 25, 2010). "Bring Odd Bedfellows Together to Promote Social Change, Foundations Urged". Chronicle of Philanthropy. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
  7. ^ Cullen, Paul (July 10, 2012). "Chuck Feeney winding up charitable operations". Irish Times. Archived from the original on July 11, 2012. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
  8. ^ Paynter, Ben (November 4, 2016). "How Atlantic Philanthropies Plans To Keep Making Change After It Shuts Down". Fast Company. Retrieved September 17, 2020.
  9. ^ Bertoni, Steven (15 September 2020). "Exclusive: The Billionaire Who Wanted To Die Broke . . . Is Now Officially Broke". Forbes. Retrieved 15 September 2020.
  10. ^ a b c Bertoni, Steven (September 18, 2012). "Chuck Feeney: The Billionaire Who Is Trying To Go Broke". Forbes. Archived from the original on 26 June 2018. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
  11. ^ "Final grant from Atlantic supports The Cornell Tradition | Cornell Chronicle". Retrieved 2017-03-15.
  12. ^ Strom, Stephanie (2011-02-22). "Long After Giving His Money Away, a Donor Takes the Pledge". The New York Times.
  13. ^ Dwyer, Jim (2017-01-05). "'James Bond of Philanthropy' Gives Away the Last of His Fortune". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-03-15.
  14. ^ Preston, Caroline (September 28, 2011). "Atlantic Philanthropies Appoints New President". Chronicle of Philanthropy. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
  15. ^ Grayce West, Melanie (May 31, 2016). "Atlantic Philanthropies Announces $200 Million in Two Gifts". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 13 June 2016.
  16. ^ Sullivan, Paul (October 31, 2014). "A Billion Still to Spend, and Only Two Years to Do It". New York Times. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
  17. ^ "About Us". Atlantic Philanthropies. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
  18. ^ Grube, Kathy (August 28, 2011). "The Atlantic Philanthropies leads USA delegation to QLD". University of Queensland Australia. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
  19. ^ "BBC Northern Ireland". BBC News. 23 August 2010. BBC report on McWilliams' early departure, and Atlantic Philanthropies funding
  20. ^ Thornhill, Don (16 December 2020). "Atlantic Philanthropies investment in Irish Third Level Education, a memoir". Amplifying change. Retrieved 22 July 2022.
  21. ^ "Trinity opens €30m sports centre". Irish Examiner. April 7, 2008. Archived from the original on December 12, 2017. Retrieved September 17, 2020.
  22. ^ "Billionaire Gives It All Away". CBS News. February 25, 2008. Archived from the original on October 23, 2012. Retrieved November 1, 2012.
  23. ^ Sunday Times Ireland – CPI closed down after legal threat. The Times, (25 August 2011).
  24. ^ Naughton, Gareth (May 3, 2009). "Billionaire Chuck Feeney earmarks €80m for projects this year". Sunday Tribune. Retrieved 2020-09-17.
  25. ^ Deegan, Gordon (2011-03-01). "Barnardos raises €8.5m funding - The Irish Times - Tue, Mar 01, 2011". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2011-06-15.
  26. ^ Cook, Barbary; Rebecca Subar (2014). "Catalysing LGBT Equality and Visibility in Ireland" (PDF). Atlantic Philanthropies. p. 2. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 February 2015. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
  27. ^ O'Dowd, Niall (October 1, 2014). "Will Ireland vote for gay marriage? Historic vote coming up". Irish Central. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
  28. ^ a b O’Brien, Breda (9 May 2015). "Asking questions about funding for referendum campaign". The Irish Times. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
  29. ^ "THE ATLANTIC PHILANTHROPIES IN THE REPUBLIC OF IRELAND (1987-2014)" (PDF). Atlantic Philanthropies. July 2015. Retrieved 4 April 2017.
  30. ^ "UCSF Medical Center receives $125 million gift to build new hospital". UC San Francisco. Retrieved 2017-04-27.
  31. ^ San Francisco Business Times - by Ron Leuty (2010-10-26). "UCSF starts $1.5B hospital complex | San Francisco Business Times". Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-15.
  32. ^ "A Big Bet on Advocacy Helps to Make History on Health Care". Atlantic Philanthropies. Archived from the original on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-15.
  33. ^ LaMarche, Gara (October 30, 2014). "Is Philanthropy Bad for Democracy?". The Atlantic. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
  34. ^ Pérez-Peña, Richard (19 December 2011). "Cornell Alumnus Is Behind $350 Million Gift to Build Science School in City". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  35. ^ Callahan, David. "A Closer Look at Atlantic's End Game—And Where It's Putting the Biggest Money". Inside Philanthropy. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
  36. ^ West, Melanie Grayce. "Atlantic Philanthropies Announces $200 Million in Two Gifts". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 18 July 2016.
  37. ^ Kurtzman, Laura (November 16, 2015). "Atlantic Philanthropies Gives $177M to Establish Global Brain Health Institute to Fight Dementia". UC San Francisco. Retrieved 2020-09-17.