Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, plan to give 99 percent of their Facebook fortune to charity over the course of their lives via a new foundation, Zuckerberg announced minutes ago in a letter embedded in a post commemorating the birth of the couple's first child. From the letter:
As you begin the next generation of the Chan Zuckerberg family, we also begin the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to join people across the world to advance human potential and promote equality for all children in the next generation. Our initial areas of focus will be personalized learning, curing disease, connecting people and building strong communities.
We will give 99% of our Facebook shares -- currently about $45 billion -- during our lives to advance this mission. We know this is a small contribution compared to all the resources and talents of those already working on these issues. But we want to do what we can, working alongside many others.
Zuckerberg is already well-known as a philanthropist, having made substantial donations to medicine- and education-related causes; he gave $25 million last year to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to support its Ebola response and famously announced on Oprah in 2010 that he was giving $100 million to Newark, New Jersey, public schools (an act that, for all its generosity, has reportedly had mixed results).
The Facebook founder wrote movingly about his and Chan's experience with miscarriages in a July post announcing Chan's pregnancy. Their new daughter's name is Max.
Update, 5 p.m.: A reader asks whether this is the biggest charitable commitment ever announced. Not exactly: Warren Buffett has said he plans to give away 99 percent of his own wealth, which is more substantial than Zuckerberg's, while Bill Gates (who is currently even richer) has said he'll ultimately give away 95 percent of his fortune to his own charity. That said, since these commitments involve assets whose value is constantly fluctuating, it's impossible to say whose contribution will ultimately end up being the largest.