Duty Free billionaire Alan Parker is fittingly taking his philanthropy across the globe.
The self-confessed ‘tight’ businessman has committed a huge chunk of his substantial fortune to an array of charitable causes across 45 countries through the family’s Geneva-based Oak Foundation – one of the largest in Europe.
Parker was born in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in 1939 and later qualified as an accountant in the UK. He worked his way to a multi-million pound fortune as a founding member of Hong Kong-based Duty Free Shoppers (DFS). When it was taken over by LVMH luxury goods group in 1997, Parker enjoyed a bumper $840 million payday as the third largest shareholder. Investing in hedge funds and technology has bolstered Parker’s fortune.
Inspired by DFS founder and legion philanthropist Irish American Chuck Feeney, Parker had embraced philanthropy before he made his mega-fortune.
Parker established the family’s Oak Foundation in 1983, that focuses on the environment, homelessness, human rights, women’s issues and learning disabilities, in his wife Jette’s native Denmark, Africa, the US, India and Europe. The family’s early and continued support for the International Council for the Rehabilitation of Torture Victims has had a major impact on the torture abolition movement.
His children Caroline, Natalie, and Kristian are also involved in the Foundation’s work and will take its commitment to effective philanthropy forward for a new generation.
The Oak Foundation described 2014 as a “banner year” with $245.78 million granted to more than 300 organisations in 45 countries. This included an unprecedented five-year commitment to climate change mitigation and a contribution to the frontline response to Ebola. It earned Parker 18th place in the 2015 Sunday Times Giving List, representing 7.5% of his £2.28 billion ($3.42 billion) fortune.
In 2006 the Parker’s work was celebrated with an honorary doctorate degree from Colby College in the United States, where they have made multi-million pound investments, including establishing the Parker Institute and Muscle Laboratory, which focuses on neurological diseases and provides medical exams to 7,000 outpatients each year.
In the foundation’s 2012 annual report commenting on the $152.82 million worth of grants made, trustees said: “Our partners have been on the frontline of many struggles, from advocating for global agreements on climate change to promoting women’s rights, child protection and an end to arbitrary detention. We continue to be proud of what they are achieving and feel privileged to support their work.”
But they are taking a realistic approach to the complex work they do. The trustees say in their annual letter for 2014, reviewing the last five years progress: “Not surprisingly change is slow and in most cases many years down the road. Nonetheless, the results confirmed that our strategies – and those of our partners – are making a difference.”
The Billionaire Who Wasn’t http://www.billionairebooks.net/readbooks/486/72.html
Jette and Alan Parker. Honorary Degree Citation. Retrieved from https://www.colby.edu/commencement/2006-2/honorary/jette-and-alan-parker/
Oak Foundation. About us. Retrieved from http://www.oakfnd.org/node/9