Billionaire Michael Dell, chairman and CEO of Dell Technologies, and his wife Susan promised on Friday to give $36 million to assist in the efforts of rebuilding the city he grew up in. The massive gift is part of an even bigger project called the Rebuild Texas Fund that is being kicked off by their Michael and Susan Dell Foundation. Through the foundation, the couple will immediately donate $18 million to establish the fund and will then work with the public to hopefully raise millions more over the Labor Day weekend. For every two dollars given over the next four days via a text-to-donate campaign, the foundation will match it with an additional dollar.
“This is our home,” Dell said in a statement. “And we know that it will take all of us working together, over the long term, to rebuild our Texas communities.”
The goal of the Rebuild Texas Fund, which was announced by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, is to raise $100 million to accelerate the long-term recovery and rebuilding of communities affected by Hurricane Harvey.
Janet Mountain, executive director of the Austin, TX – based Michael & Susan Dell Foundation said that Texas holds a special place in the couple’s hearts and the fact that both Michael and Susan are Texas natives affected their response to the disaster. “This kind of devastation is personal, especially if you have Texas roots” Mountain told FORBES. Mountain stated that the foundation wanted to kick off the fund with a sizable immediate donation so that the people impacted by the hurricane know that there is someone behind them. The foundation has also set up a page for donations. “We believe we can get there ($100 million) and even higher,” Mountain said.
With this donation, Dell joins the ranks of other billionaires who are stepping up and donating millions to help Texas recover from Hurricane Harvey, though the size and magnitude of Dell’s donation eclipse the other sums. Prior to Dell, the latest billionaire to promise money for Harvey relief was the Donald Trump, the first billionaire president. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Thursday that he will “probably pledge a million” and asked the media for suggestions for which organization he should donate the money to, “since you are very good at research and have been doing a lot of reporting into the groups and organizations that are best and most effective in helping.”
The $36 million donation is not unprecedented for the Dells, whose foundation, according to its website, has donated $1.38 billion since its inception in 1999. Among the most notable donations are its $50 million gift to establish the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin in 2013, and the $25 million challenge to match a dollar for dollar for the construction of the Seton Healthcare Family’s teaching hospital in Austin. In May this year, Dell announced he would commit an additional $1 billion to support social entrepreneurs and nonprofits.
Dell got his start at age 19 selling computers out of his University of Texas dorm room in 1984 with a $1,000 investment. The business, which became Dell Computers, grossed $80,000 by the end of his freshman year. In September 2016 he closed the biggest deal of his life, the approximately $67 billion mergers between storage giant EMC and Dell, which formed Dell Technologies. While he still gets a big chunk of his nearly $23 billion fortune from his computer company, the bulk of Dell’s money comes from his investment group, MSD Capital, which owns the Four Seasons Maui, plus indirect stakes in Applebees, IHOP, Calvin Klein and reportedly Grand Central Station. He is currently ranked the 20th richest person in the U.S.