Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross on Tuesday pledged to donate the bulk of his $4 billion fortune to charity once he dies, joining a list of prominent billionaires in the so-called “giving pledge.”
In his message on the Giving Pledge website, Ross touted his upbringing in a middle-class Detroit neighborhood as teaching him the value of “giving back.”
“I am delighted, grateful and honored to join this important effort in the hope that collectively we can leave the world a little bit better place than we found it,’’ wrote Ross, who turns 73 on Friday. His was one of nine billionaire pledges that the Seattle-based charity announced Tuesday.
The announcement comes on the heels of Ross losing out on a bid to use tax money to fund about 45 percent of the upfront costs of a $350 million renovation Sun Life Stadium, and as the New York developer sends word he will not foot the bill for a smaller upgrade of the 1987 facility. Team CEO Mike Dee told 640 AM’s Andy Slater Tuesday that a privately financed renovation “was never an option we considered” and that there is no “Plan B” now that the tax-plan has failed.
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But Dee also said the Dolphins are “absolutely not” closing the door on pursuing tax dollars again. “We’re still going to explore ways to do this,’’ he told The Miami Herald. Given the age of the stadium, Dee added, “This issue is not going to go away.”
Throughout the stadium debate, Ross talked about the limits of his fortune and what his death may mean to the franchise he purchased in 2009. While he promised not to move the team even if the tax help fell through, Ross warned his family would be forced to sell the team once he dies and that a future owner may demand a new stadium in exchange for remaining in Miami. “I can’t rule from the grave,” Ross told the Herald in April.
Ross has not granted interviews since the legislative defeat, but Dee on Tuesday repeated the message that the Dolphins would stay put under Ross. Asked on Slater’s show what the chances were that Ross would move the Dolphins, and Dee answered: “Zero percent.”
Tuesday’s charity pledge announcement puts Ross in the company of the country’s most famous billionaires. Ross wrote he was grateful to join “Bill” and “Warren” — Bill Gates and Warren Buffett — along with Gates’ wife, Melinda, in making the public pledge to give away the bulk of his money. Buffett and the Gateses are the leading advocates for the pledge.
Ross and his wife have four children, with the youngest entering college. In a one-page letter posted on givingpledge.org, the former tax attorney said he would give away “the substantial majority of my assets to charitable causes.”
During the stadium campaign, Ross touted his time growing up in Miami Beach as one reason he is so devoted to the Dolphins. Ross’ family moved to Miami Beach when he was a teenager and he graduated from Miami Beach High School. The Ross letter in the Giving Pledge announcement does not mention his Florida ties, focusing on his Michigan upbringing and connections. Among the philanthropic interests it lists are the University of Michigan business school that bears his name and a foundation he is forming to pursue sustainable models of urban living. .
He credited his late uncle, Max Fisher, with teaching him the importance of charity for the wealthy. Fisher made his fortune in the gas and oil business, and used his money to start music and business schools in Detroit and Ohio.
“Although I have generally conducted my philanthropic efforts privately, I hope through publicly committing to the Giving Pledge that I will inspire others to commit to significant philanthropy the way my uncle inspired me,’’ Ross wrote.