What's the Deal With This Real Estate Billionaire's Philanthropy?

West Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene and wife Mei Sze signed the Giving Pledge in 2011. It's unclear when the couple established their foundation (likely somewhere around the late 2000s), but in recent years, the couple's philanthropy hasn't exactly taken off. In fact, the status of their foundation is up in the air, with tax records apparently not available to the public.

Unhelpfully, Greene's pledge letter simply declared that he wouldn't give the majority of his wealth to his children, saying, "the bulk of my estate will go to our foundation." However, since signing the pledge, Greene and Mei Sze appear to have made only a handful of gifts—to outfits such as the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach, the Central Florida YMCA Foundation, and the Everglades Foundation. The couple also recently hosted the Palm Beach Police Foundation's Policeman's Ball in their home, and appear to have some connection to the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, as well.

So far, this couple has stuck close to home, supporting only a few outfits. What's going on, here?

There are a couple of possible reasons why the Greenes' philanthropy hasn't yet kicked into high gear. For one, Greene has been extended in other areas. In 2010, he made an unsuccessful bid for the Florida State Senate. And he has also been managing his roughly $1 billion real estate portfolio, something he's fostered over decades. It's worth remembering that his early business decisions put him through college.

Greene's father died of a heart attack at 51 after years of struggling to get by in business. Greene has said this experience made him prioritize "financial security." He paid his way through Johns Hopkins by selling circus tickets, and was so successful at sales that he spent his summers running telemarketing centers. At Harvard Business School, having saved $100,000, Greene put down money to buy a home and rent out the rooms.  By graduation, he owned 18 properties and hasn't looked back since.

On the other hand, when Greene hit 51 a few years ago, he decided it was time to shift priorities. In 2007, he finally married; the couple have several children. In 2011, Greene and his wife signed the Giving Pledge.

Even this minor amount of biography suggests that what's going on with Greene isn't too perplexing. He's still only 60 and has plenty of time to ramp up his giving. Now that he's got that financial security squared away, and a houseful of kids, it's likely that his philanthropy will kick into gear. When it does, he's likely to continue supporting Jewish causes in the West Palm Beach area. Not only was Greene's mother a Hebrew school teacher, but as a youth, Greene himself taught in Hebrew school.

Another factor here is Mei Sze, who has a real estate background like Greene, but came to this country after fleeing Malaysia to live in Australia. It's possible that some sort of global development philanthropy takes place as a result.

Finally, health philanthropy might also be a priority, given the untimely death of Greene's father.

Related: Jeff Greene Profile