Questions Raised About Jobs' Philanthropy

The philanthropic track record of Apple chief Steve Jobs, who announced last week he was stepping down as CEO of the company, raises important questions at a time when "millionaires and billionaires are criticized for not giving back enough," the New York Times reports.

Jobs, who has amassed a fortune of more than $8 billion through his holdings in Apple and Disney, is routinely lionized as a genius, a visionary, and an innovator. But unlike Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, who heads the world's largest private foundation, Jobs has demonstrated little interest in philanthropy, at least of the public kind.

According to the Times, Jobs established a private foundation in 1986 but closed it a year later. In 2008, Apple, one of the few technology companies that does not offer an employee matching gift program or make grants through a corporate foundation, contributed $100,000 to a group seeking to block Proposition 8, which sought to restrict the definition of marriage in California to opposite-sex couples. (The measure passed in November 2008.) And last year, Jobs — who is battling pancreatic cancer and underwent a liver transplant in 2009 — pushed for the state to create a live donor registry for kidney transplants, with support from former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's wife, Maria Shriver. Beyond that, the public record has little to say about his philanthropy.

Indeed, while some have speculated that he may be the donor behind an anonymous $150 million gift to the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California, San Francisco, he has declined to participate in the high-profile Giving Pledge campaign launched by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates in 2010 to encourage the country's wealthiest individuals and families to give at least half of their wealth to charity.

But according to a number of people who spoke to the Times, Jobs' public philanthropy, or lack thereof, should not be held against him. "He has been focused on two things — building the team at Apple and his family," said a close friend who declined to be identified. "That's his legacy. Everything else is a distraction."

Andrew Ross Sorkin. "The Mystery of Steve Jobs's Public Giving." New York Times 08/29/2011.