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Amos Jr. and Barbara Hostetter

Amos Jr. and Barbara Hostetter

Amos Jr. and Barbara Hostetter

Amount donated: Total lifetime giving of $715m (2014).

Philanthropic causes: Climate change prevention, arts, education.

Regions of philanthropic focus: Boston, U.S. Selective global engagement: East Africa, Haiti, India.

Ranking: #32 (ForbesAmerica’s Top 50 Givers).

Net worth: $3bn according to Forbes real time net worth 2016.

Source of wealth: Cable television, self-made.


Amos B. Hostetter, Jr. and Barbara W. Hostetter are considered to be among the world’s leading philanthropists, having donated over $715m over the course of their lifetimes. Much of their charity work is carried out through their charitable organisation, the Barr Foundation, which was founded by the duo in 1997, operates out of Boston in the U.S., but now funds global projects, encompassing everything from climate change and education to the arts and creativity sectors.

Hostetter was born into a wealthy family. His father, Amos Hostetter, was a well-renowned and successful trader working with different financial service companies. Amos Sr. then went on to form Commodities Corporation which was later bought by the multinational investment banking firm, Goldman Sachs, for an estimated fee thought to be in excess of $100m.

The Junior Hostetter followed in his father’s footsteps by studying economics at university before obtaining his M.B.A from the prestigious Harvard University. It was during this time in the 1960s that Hostetter and his college roommate, H. Irving Grousbeck, gathered up $1500 worth of savings and invested in a cable TV company. Their investment paid off and when Continental Cablevision was sold in 1996, it was worth $11bn and was the world’s largest privately owned cable company.

Hostetter has since been involved in other ventures, but the cable TV pioneer, along with his wife, Barbara W. Hostetter, whom he met in 1982, now dedicate the majority of their time to philanthropic causes. The couple set up the Barr Foundation with the aim of “investing in human, natural, and creative potential, serving as thoughtful stewards and catalysts”, as stated on the company’s website. Since its inception, the Barr has become one of the biggest sources for non-profit funding in the U.S., working in partnership with business leaders and other organisations both regionally and globally. The foundation is involved in community projects, attempting to find solutions for climate change, and helping students to achieve success, both in and beyond the classroom.

When the Barr was first established, it was a family run operation with Amos in charge of the investments and Barbara managing the charitable programs. Initially the Barr was a charitable foundation that was very private about its operations. The objective for the Hostetters was not to be secretive, but just to try to be effective philanthropists without having to deal with any media scrutiny. They’d rather not be the centre of attention and give generously simply because they want to do good in the world. Barbara has stated that she and husband Amos did “get a knock about being anonymous for a good many years. In philanthropy you have to be willing to take risks. If you went in determined that your money is always going to be used to its best advantage, you would miss opportunities. Over time Barr has developed into an adolescent who was ready to grow up.” Today the Barr currently has assets of $1.6bn.

Through their foundation, the Barr is now the major source of funding muscle behind many charitable and community-led projects, particularly in and around Boston. Most recently, the foundation has gained wide acclaim for its funding of Boston Creates, a project to harness creativity in the local area and build a shared vision for arts and culture amongst the local community.

In 2016 the Barr helped launch an education initiative by granting $5m to Year Up, an organisation helping to empower young urban adults living in poverty to go on to achieve success in education and the work place.

The Hostetters also fund research studies, many of which take a global precedence, such as climate change, with others having more local significance such as research conducted by the Massachusetts branch of the Clean Water Fund.

Amos and Barbara Hostetter formed the Barr to design programs, manage and fund them, ensuring the money will be put to good use. The foundation’s strategy is to engage new audiences, which it has done successfully in Boston, but the Hostetters hope to expand outside of the region and eventually get involved with more projects nationally and become a philanthropic team that operates on a global scale.