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Richard Branson, 11 Other Foreign Billionaires, to Give Wealth to Charity

Mark Wieland/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- For the first time, foreign billionaires including Sir Richard Branson are locking arms with U.S. counterparts to sign "The Giving Pledge" -- a commitment to give half their wealth to a mega-charity created in 2010 by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates.

"Early on, the Giving Pledge was predominantly an American phenomenon," says Peter Newcomb, a Bloomberg News editor who compiles Bloomberg's list of global billionaires.

Giving away one's money, says Newcomb, is an idea that traditionally has been more appealing to Americans than Europeans.

"It was not really a European sensibility.  Now you're beginning to see that change," he says.

Of the 12 new signatories to the Pledge, one-each comes from Australia, Germany, India, Malaysia, Russia, South Africa and the Ukraine.  Five more come from the U.K., according to a Giving Pledge statement.  These names bring to 105 the number of billionaires who have signed so far.

The newcomers include the famous -- The U.K.'s Branson and his wife Joan -- and the not-so famous: Patrice and Precious Motsepe of South Africa, whose $2.67 billion fortune, according to Forbes, comes from mining.  Patrice, says Forbes, is the first and only black billionaire from Africa.

Like other new signers of the Pledge, Branson made his commitment by letter.

"Early on in my life," Branson writes, "I realized that personal 'stuff' really didn't matter.  Joan and I lived on a houseboat, and one day it sank.  We realized that we missed nothing except our treasured photo albums."

"Later our house in London caught fire, destroying everything inside.  Last year our home in the British Virgin Islands was completely gutted as a result of a lightning strike.  Were so relieved that everyone got out safely that even the loss of photo albums and notebooks were of little consequence," he continues.

Branson wants, he says, to make "a positive difference" in the world.  As he and his wife are able to take their monies out of Virgin Group, they intend to target such causes as the reducing carbon emissions, protecting nature and resolving conflict.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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