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Tue 27 Feb 2007 12:00 AM

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Stelios to give away fortune

EXCLUSIVE: The easyJet tycoon is to follow Gates and Buffett by giving away the bulk of his $1.5 billion fortune to charity.

EasyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou is to give away the bulk of his US$1.5 billion fortune to charity.

The Greek tycoon, who earlier this week launched his easyHotel brand in Dubai, makes the revelation in an interview to be published in Arabian Business this Sunday.

Haji-Ioannou tells the magazine: "I turned 40 last week and now I am thinking about charity and giving it all back."

He adds: "Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have set the benchmark, though I am a lot younger then them, so for me it will be more of a journey to get there. I haven't thought yet whether it will be in one big bang or slowly."

The tycoon is estimated by the Sunday Times to be worth at least US$1.5 billion, having made the bulk of his fortune through low cost airline easyJet. Since then, he has expanded the 'easy' brand into at least 15 other ventures, including car rentals, cruise ships, cinemas and even pizzas.

It is believed that a number of charities and causes have already been selected for sizeable donations, including educational funds, a new fund to promote disabled entrepreneurs and several environmental causes.

"I have already given away my art collection to charity, and I suppose a lot of the money will go towards improving the environment. Because I started easyJet many people have asked me what it feels like to be helping destroy the planet. So I suppose this is a good way to answer that," he says.

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