FACT CHECK: Is J.K. Rowling The First Person To Fall Off The Forbes Billionaires List For Charitable Giving?

Trevor Schakohl | Legal Reporter

An image shared on Facebook claims British author J.K. Rowling is the first person to fall off Forbes magazine’s billionaires list due to charitable giving.

Verdict: False

Rowling’s departure from the Forbes World Billionaires list was precipitated by her charitable giving and Britain’s high tax rates. Forbes confirmed that Rowling is not the first billionaire to get bumped off the list for charitable giving.

Fact Check:

Forbes magazine publishes an annual ranking of the world’s wealthiest people, all of whom have a documented net worth of at least $1 billion U.S. dollars. The Forbes World’s Billionaires list, which ranks its members from most wealthy to least, was topped in 2018 by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos with an estimated $112 billion.

Rowling, author of the popular “Harry Potter” fantasy novels, debuted on the 2004 Billionaires list as the first billionaire author at $1 billion. In 2012, she fell off the list due to a combination of charitable giving and high tax rates.

“New information about Rowlings’ estimated $160 million in charitable giving combined with Britain’s high tax rates bumped the Harry Potter scribe from our list this year,” wrote Forbes.

Rowling founded the Children’s High Level Group, now called Lumos, in 2005 to help “disadvantaged” children in orphanages around the world. Through her charitable trust, Volant, she has also donated to organizations that support women, children, and the alleviation of poverty.

“You have a moral responsibility when you’ve been given far more than you need, to do wise things with it and give intelligently,” the Telegraph quoted Rowling as saying about charitable giving in 2011.

However, Forbes confirmed in an email to the Daily Caller that Rowling is not the first billionaire to fall off the list due, in part, to charitable donations. Luisa Kroll, an assistant managing editor at Forbes, pointed to several individuals whose philanthropy cost them their spots on the list prior to Rowling, including American Century Investments founder James Stowers in 2001 and Golden West Financial Corporation founder Herb Sandler in 2006.

Chuck Feeney, the Duty Free Shoppers co-founder who was worth $1.9 billion in 1991, is another example. His Atlantic Philanthropies has distributed $8 billion in grants from 1981 to 2016.

“He’s the person we site [sic] as truly trying to give it all away,” Kroll told the Caller in an email.

Though Rowling is no longer included on the Forbes World Billionaires list, the “Harry Potter” author still has a substantial fortune. As of July 9, Forbes estimates that Rowling had already earned $92 million in 2019.

Trevor Schakohl

Legal Reporter
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