The billionaire’s dilemma: spend $250m on buying the venerable Washington Post, or splash the cash on a start-up news network to be headed by a controversial investigative journalist with no experience of running anything? It is entirely in character that Pierre Omidyar chose the second option, bankrolling the new journalism venture of Glenn Greenwald, best known for his reporting on the National Security Agency. Mr Omidyar did not become a billionaire at the age of 31 by fixing an established institution, but by building eBay from scratch into a worldwide online marketplace. And fostering innovative start-ups with an ambition to improve the world has been the focus of his philanthropy since he gave up his executive role at eBay while still in his 30s. Mr Omidyar, who is now 46, has already deployed $1 billion of his fortune to this end, which puts his $250m media investment into perspective: a big bet, but not that big.
His wealth—still around $8.5 billion—is not the only reason why any venture by Mr Omidyar should be taken seriously. Both at eBay and in his charitable schemes he has demonstrated an ability to turn a promising but vague idea into something concrete and substantial. And the evolution of his philanthropy is a case study with lessons for other entrepreneurs seeking to become benefactors.
Read the full article in The Economist here.