Hedge Fund Billionaire Leon Cooperman Is Giving Most of It Away

Leon CoopermanHedge fund mogul Leon Cooperman, who ranked this year at 655 on Forbes World's Billionaires list and at 269 on Forbes 400 Richest American list with an estimated net worth of $1.5 billion, told CNBC on Tuesday he's donating most of his fortune to charity to help needy people get out of poverty. Following the recent fiasco with the IRS over his last big donation, here's hoping this time he got decent advice from his accountant.

Cooperman, of Short Hills, N.J., grew up in the South Bronx section of New York City. His father was a plumber. He was able to get an MBA and go to work for Goldman Sachs where he remained for a quarter of a century. Since his retirement from the Wall Street firm in 1991, he's been chairman and CEO of Omega Advisors, a $3.5 billion hedge fund based in New York City.

Victim of Bad Advice?

Cooperman says his story is the American dream. Now he wants now to donate most of his fortune to "those that are disadvantaged to experience the American dream." Cooperman follows in the footsteps Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. He was asked to donate half his fortune to the Gates foundation, but he says he'll donate every dollar he makes to the nonprofit sector, wanting to give back to the system.

Despite his obvious market savvy, Cooperman claimed even he got bad advice. As Forbes tells it, the IRS disallowed his deductions for $43 million in contributions he made to his own family's private foundation and sent him a bill for $14 million in back taxes and $5 million in accuracy-related penalties.

While the 67-year-old now concedes that federal law specifically prohibits such deductions of nonpublicly traded securities to a private foundation, he filed a U.S. Tax Court lawsuit in July, blaming bad counsel from his tax advisers. This time his counsel better be accurate.

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