Bono pledges to use Facebook IPO windfall for African charity work

By Hilary Gridley

What does it take to become the richest rock star in the world? A lot more than a 2.3% stake in Facebook, it turns out. One of the most interesting stories to come out of last week’s Facebook IPO buzz centered around an unlikely focal point: U2 frontman Bono.

Bono is a managing director of Elevation Partners, a private equity firm focused on large-scale investments in media, entertainment and technology businesses that has also invested in companies like Yelp and Palm. The firm reportedly bought 40 million shares of Facebook in 2009 for $90 million. As of Friday, that stake was worth approximately $1.5 billion, causing reporters across the internet to claim the investment would catapult Bono to the top of the world’s richest musicians.

Had the claims been true, the timing could not have been better. President Obama spoke at the Global Food Summit on Friday, announcing a new global partnership  to improve food security around the world by boosting farmers’ incomes and helping 50 million people lift themselves out of poverty before 2022.

Bono’s well known philanthropic work, which has earned numerous Nobel Peace Prize nominations, has always emphasized food security and its role in ending poverty. He also co-founded the ONE Campaign, which aims to increase government funding for and improve international aid programs. Prior to President Obama’s announcement, the campaign called on G8 leaders to implement such a plan, and Bono praised their commitment in an interview with NBC, explaining:

“But what’s key about today’s announcement is that the president of the United States is supporting African ideas on how to fix their problem. There are country-owned, country-devised plans in 30 African countries.  And that’s what it will take to get to that 50 million people taken out of — out of hunger over the next decade.

“So it’s — that’s what’s different. It’s partnership, it’s not the old paternalism. These are sort of horizontal relationships, not vertical ones.”

Bono’s interest in world-changing technology like Facebook is no surprise given his passion for constantly rethinking and improving the way we understand and implement foreign aid programs.

So how much of the $1.5 billion from Facebook will go directly to Bono’s philanthropic efforts? Fortune estimates he will receive no more than $43 million after everything gets split between various partners. No small sum, but certainly not enough to rise above the current richest man in music (and fellow knight), Sir Paul McCartney, valued at over a billion dollars. It isn’t known exactly how much of this will go toward Bono’s charity work, but Rolling Stone reports that he intends to give most of the money raised from this investment to his philanthropic work in Africa. It remains to be seen, but we’re confident that this altruistic frontman will put it to good use.

Comments are closed.