Some of the world’s richest are donating to help countries hardest hit by the disease. Bill Gates, the world’s second-richest person, announced that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation would commit $100 million to aid global detection, isolation and treatment of the virus. Alibaba founder Jack Ma, the second-richest person in China, pledged $14 million from his foundation to help develop a coronavirus vaccine and said on Friday he would donate 500,000 testing kits and one million face masks to the U.S.
The first shipment of masks and coronavirus test kits to the US is taking off from Shanghai. All the best to our friends in America. pic.twitter.com/LTn26gvlOl— Jack Ma (@JackMa) March 16, 2020
On Saturday, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky announced on Twitter that the company will allow guests around the world to cancel and get their money refunded.
First, Airbnb will allow guests around the world to cancel and get their money back. We will not collect fees on these bookings. https://t.co/XmE6AvQACA— Brian Chesky (@bchesky) March 14, 2020
Hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin’s firm Citadel announced it will donate $7.5 million to one of China’s hardest-hit provinces. Ted Leonsis, the owner of the NBA's Wizards, the NHL's Capitals, the WNBA's Washington Mystics, two Arena Football teams and the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C., announced that he would pay all 500 ushers, ticket takers, operations folks and other part-time employees who were scheduled to work through the end of March despite the venue being closed.
Here’s what some of the world’s richest told Forbes about what’s on their mind now regarding the pandemic and what they’re expecting:
Vincent Bollore, CEO of Bolloré Group of France, says he’s not that worried about how the coronavirus might impact his company.
- “Our group [has existed] since 1822. We have been through revolutions, two world wars, etc. So we [have to] adapt ourselves.”
Steve Sarowitz, founder and chairman of payroll company Paylocity, says he’s curtailing his and his family’s travel.
- “Although the suffering and deaths from the coronavirus are tragic, there is also a bright side to the coronavirus. Most importantly, it shows how interconnected we all are and that we all must rely on each other and work together to fight it. Also, with less travel, families will be spending more time at home together. I am personally thrilled to be getting a respite from my heavy travel schedule and getting a chance to spend more time at home with my kids. Lastly, natural disasters like plagues and earthquakes have a tendency to increase our belief in God and help us escape the prison of materialism that we have locked ourselves in.”
John Pritzker, founder and CEO of Geolo Capital, whose current investments include seven hotels across the U.S.
- “Focused on social distancing, hygiene and people around us doing the same. I’ve been on a regimen of vitamin C/A and B3 and lots of exercise. If it works I’ll be thrilled. If not, I’ll be sad I didn’t just sit around and eat ice cream. My kids think I’m suffering from apocalyptic fever. Fortunately, my granddaughter thinks I’m awesome but she can’t talk or walk yet.”
- “I’m in the hospitality industry! We’re a bit tip of the spear right now. We hope for the best but are preparing for something less. We’re in a fortunate position but I suspect there will be a high degree of owner distress before this passes.”
- What are you most concerned about? “The unknown. Flu has been around for 2,000+ years. COVID-19 for 3 months. I worry about the social and health care impacts-can the healthcare system handle a pandemic? Who receives care, etc. I also worry about the post pandemic implications. Bankruptcies, lost jobs, greater disparity of wealth... It’s easy to become dystopian so I prefer my own view which hews to the song ‘Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive!’”
Eric Yuan, founder of video conferencing company Zoom, decided to make his service free for unlimited use in affected regions – first China, and now Italy and in K-12 across the US – instead of making hay while the sun shines.
- “I told the team that with any crisis like this, let’s not leverage the opportunity for marketing or sales. Let’s focus on our customers,” Yuan says. “If you leverage this opportunity for money, I think that’s a horrible culture.” (See this story for more details.)
Jim McKelvey cofounder and board member of Square, says his family just canceled a trip to Italy and are hunkering down at home.
- “We are inviting our older family members to stay with us in St. Louis. St. Louis has one of the best healthcare systems in the USA. If a crisis strikes, this is where we want to be.”
- “I worry that elderly and poor people will not be able to get sufficient care.”
Stewart Rahr, who sold family pharmaceutical distributor Kinray to Cardinal Health, says he is not panicking.
- “Currently we view this as a 1 – 2 quarter issue, we continue to monitor closely and look for attractive entry points. We currently have plenty of cash and no debt so that allows us to potentially buy at a discount or jump on new opportunities.”
Mohammed Dewji, CEO of MeTL Group of Tanzania, says he cancelled all scheduled travel plans to Europe and the United States, is limiting his exposure to large crowds, and cancelled his attendance to all major conferences, forums and gatherings in affected countries.
- “My colleagues have installed automated hand sanitizers in the office.”
- “Commodity prices have fallen, and since we’re in the trading business and also commodity industries manufacturing goods, we hold long positions in our raw materials. This has had an inverse effect on our company temporarily. This goes for petroleum, edible oils markets which have also crashed and effects our business as we operate in these industries. Suppliers have also delayed the supply of raw materials due to COVID-19 which has resulted in us over ordering and overstocking which we typically do not do so.”
- “My major concern is the livelihoods of people – I really pray the virus contains itself so that we have less fatalities, less infections and faster recoveries. I hope that all governments work closely with each other to collectively deploy resources to be able to prevent an even more widespread outbreak.”
Herbert Wertheim, founder of Brain Power Inc., says he was planning to board The World—the largest luxury residential ship on Earth, where he owns three apartments—but the cruise has been cancelled.
- “My sense is I'm not taking it like a scary sort of thing, it’s economically scary for what it has done, but i'm not scared for my personal health.”
On Sunday, Salesforce founder Marc Benioff tweeted about how Salesforce and Time will continue to pay hourly workers as many employees work from home. “Please pay any hourly worker you have a relationship with (perhaps like a housekeeper or dog walker) while allowing them to stay home. Social distancing works,” Benioff wrote.