Prince William and Kate's Earthshot Prize adds 18th richest person

EXCLUSIVE: Prince William and Kate Middleton’s Earthshot Prize adds Walmart empire heir and 18th richest person in the world Rob Walton to the list of backers for the £50million scheme

  • Rob & Melani Walton Foundation will now help fund the Royal green prizes
  • Mr Walton is 18th richest in the world with an estimated £44.4billion wealth
  • He is heir to the huge Walmart empire, whose slogan is ‘Save money. Live better’

A £50million green prize fund fronted by Prince William and Kate Middleton has added the 18th richest person in the world to its backers.

The Earthshot Prize scheme aims to solve the world’s environmental problems by offering a series of high-value awards over the next decade. 

When the prize was launched in October last year it only had six ‘founding partners’ who would be funding the award.

But without any major fanfare or announcement a seventh has been added to the list: the Rob & Melani Walton Foundation.

It is not clear the exact date they joined the project, but they were not included on the list as recently as March this year.

Rob Walton, 76, is the wealthiest of the prize’s backers with a fortune of some £44.4billion according to finance bible Forbes.

His nearest competitor within the backers is Michael Bloomberg, who is currently estimated to have a fortune of £41.5billion.

A spokesperson for the prize confirmed to MailOnline: ‘Our Global Alliance Founding Partners are a group of the world’s leading philanthropists and organisations who will work with us to deliver the ambition, scale and reach of the Prize through both funding and shared partnership objectives.

‘Our Global Alliance Founding Partners are: Aga Khan Development Network, Bloomberg Philanthropies, DP World in partnership with Dubai EXPO 2020, the Jack Ma Foundation, Marc and Lynne Benioff, Rob & Melani Walton Foundation, and The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.’

Melani Lowman Walton, the heir’s third wife, speaks to husband Rob Walton during the annual Walmart shareholders meeting in Fayetteville, Arkansas back in June 2018

Prince William and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge meet staff and pupils on a school visit

Rob Walton, 76, is the heir to the enormous Walmart empire and has a £44.4billion fortune

Mr Walton’s involvement with the prize takes the combined wealth of the backers of the award to a pot of £159.1billion.

His money comes from the Walmart empire – whose slogan is ‘Save money. Live better’ – and is the oldest of four children of the firm’s founder Sam Walton. 

Melani Walton, 46, is his third wife and is a former athletic trainer and basketball coach. It is not known how they first met before tying the knot in 2005.

The Earthshot Prize is currently part of William and Kate’s The Royal Foundation, but will become an independent organization in 2022.

In a letter to The Times last month signed by celebrities including David Attenborough and Cate Blanchett, the duke described how the lessons that had been learnt amid the coronavirus pandemic could also be applied to ‘the most pressing challenge in human history: stopping the climate emergency.’ 

He wrote: ‘If we do not act in this decade the damage to our planet will be irreversible, affecting not only those of us alive today but the future of generations to come. ‘

The duke went on to say that he would be awarding the Earthshot Prize to five winners whose ideas could help tackle issues concerning the plant’s oceans, air pollution, nature, climate and waste.

Each winner will receive £1 million to help develop their ideas into an action plan. 

The Duke of Cambridge joined other prominent figures, including Sir David Attenborough (left) and actress Cate Blanchett (right), as he called on the country to tackle climate change

Prince William talks with Sir David Attenborough during at the 49th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland

Meet The Waltons 

Rob and Melani Walton in June 2014

Rob Walton was born in 1944 and is the eldest son of Walmart founder Sam Walton.

After his father’s death in 1992 he took over as chairman of the huge company.

In June 2015 he retired from that role and was replaced by his son-in-law, Greg Penner.

He and his family own around half of the shares in the huge multi-national company.

Mr Walton has one of the world’s biggest collections of vintage sports cars.

Melani is his third wife and they tied the knot back in 2005.

It is not known how they met but she formerly worked as an athlete trainer and basketball coach.

The Rob and Melani Walton Foundation says it works with partners who ‘see the unseen, connect the unconnected, and wonder with their sleeves rolled up ‘.

He added: ‘We must transform our relationship with our planet, learning from those already living in harmony with nature and recognising that we all have a part to play. A better future is possible. 

‘As people worldwide queue for their vaccinations, now is the time to harness that spirit of invention and give the Earth a shot too.’

Also signing their names on the letter were Queen Rania of Jordan; diplomat Christiana Figueres; footballer Dani Alves; geographer Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim and former chairperson and chief executive officer of PepsiCo Indra Nooyi.

Engineer Naoko Yamazaki; economist Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; singer Shakira Mebarak and basketball player Yao Ming were also among the figures to join the duke’s calls.

The prize’s most recent hire, announced just a week ago, was Nike’s Hannah Jones as its chief executive officer.

Jason Knauf, CEO of The Royal Foundation, said of the appointment: ‘The Earthshot Prize is the most ambitious programme in The Royal Foundation’s history.

‘Prince William and our globally renowned, diverse Earthshot Prize Council will be selecting the first winners of the Prize later this year. In Hannah, we have found an outstanding, visionary Chief Executive to realise the Prize’s mission to identify and award the leaders, innovators, and activists who will repair our planet in this decisive decade. I am delighted to have found someone of Hannah’s calibre and passion to take on this challenge.’

Ms Jones added: ‘I’m thrilled to be appointed CEO of The Earthshot Prize.

‘Over the past twenty-five years, I have dedicated my career to advancing and advising on sustainability and innovating for change, both for corporate, start-up and non-profit organisations. The Earthshot Prize has an audacious global ambition to identify and scale game-changing solutions to the world’s biggest environmental challenges over the next ten crucial years. I’m excited to use my experience and passion to enable The Earthshot Prize to not just discover these solutions but also to inspire people the world over to work together to repair the planet.’

Who else funds the Earthshot Prize?

The Agar Khan, who owns a number of racehorses, with his ex wife in Ascot in 2002

Aga Khan Development Network

Founder: The Aga Khan

Personal wealth: £800million 

The Aga Khan Development Network was founded by the Aga Khan, the name given to the hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, and operates mostly in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Its mission is to help the poorest parts of those areas and usually concentrates on the fields of health, education and rural development.

It has a huge annual not-for-profit budget for these of £735million a year and has 80,000 staff on its books.

The AKDN says it gets most of its funding from partnerships with national governments and private sector partners.

Both the Duchess and Duke know The Agar Khan well and have met on a number of times

The Queen and the Aga Khan before a dinner in honour of the diamond jubilee of his leadership

These team-ups include some 19 UK based names, including Boris Johnson’s government.

The Aga Khan himself (pictured above with his ex-wife) also contributes a vast amount from an estimated £800million wealth, which comes from tithes from Ismaili community members.

He gets income from a multi-million-pound horse-racing and breeding operation in France and Ireland and has been referred to as a ‘playboy’ in the past.

In 2014 he divorced his second wife after a ten year legal battle – paying her £50million.

His personal wealth also allowed him to run a £100m yacht, named Alamshar after one of his racehorses and at one point he owned famous missing horse Shergar.

In a rare interview in 2017 he said: ‘Climate change is a major threat to much of the developing world, and it needs to be looked at with great care’.

Bloomberg Philanthropies

Founder: Michael Bloomberg

Personal wealth: £41.5billion 

Bloomberg Philanthropies is the charitable organisation that hands out the wealth of founder and one-time US presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg (pictured above with Judge Judy and Cyndi Lauper).

The organisation says it zeroes in on five main areas, which are the environment, public health, the arts, government innovation and education.

Mr Bloomberg has a fortune of over £46.6billion which he has said he will donate to the foundation, which is the 12th largest of its type in the US.

He founded media and data company Bloomberg LP and held the office of New York City mayor over a decade ago.

Michael Bloomberg speaks at the 2020 Democratic National Convention in August

Michael Bloomberg with Hollywood actors Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas

The good cause’s website describes him as its ‘guiding force’ and it says he ‘works every day to change people’s lives in meaningful ways’.

In 2017 it was reported that the group had given away £3.9billion to charitable organisations and projects. 

Jack Ma and actor Nicole Kidman at a show during Alibaba Group’s singles shopping festival 

The Jack Ma Foundation

Founder: Jack Ma

Personal wealth: £30.2billion

The foundation is the charitable and philanthropic group of Jack Ma, (pictured above with Nicole Kidman) the £30.2billion Chinese businessman.

He made his fortune through internet merchandiser Alibaba, which he announced he would retire from in September 2018.

The foundation concentrates on entrepreneurship, education, women’s leadership and environmental protection. 

President Donald Trump with Jack Ma in January 2017 in Trump Tower, New York

Lost in Translation actress Scarlett Johansson with Jack Ma at a 2016 shop festival opening

It has an approach to charity it describes as ‘combining philanthropic mindset with business approach to achieve maximum results’.

In March last year it said it would donate 500,000 testing kits and one million masks to the United States. 

Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem is the group chairman and CEO of logistics firm DP World

DP World in partnership with Dubai EXPO 2020 

CEO: Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem

Total assets: £20.5billion

Dubai Ports World is a logistics company which is based in Dubai and specialises in cargo logistics and free trade zones.

It has total assets of £20.5million and the Emirati multinational says that it handles 70 million containers.

Danny Willett of England holds the DP World Tour trophy alongside Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem,

The legacy section on its website says it wants to create positive change in education, women’s empowerment and oceans.

It started in 1972 at Port Rashid in Dubai before expanding around the world.

DP World’s group chairman and CEO is Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem (seen above), who is also a Non-Executive Chairman of high-speed rail company Virgin Hyperloop One.

In 2014 he defended the environmental impact of port operations, which make up much of the company’s work. 

Mark and Lynne Benioff will fund prizes for the Earthshot scheme and have made billions

Marc and Lynne Benioff

Founders: Mark and Lynne Benioff 

Personal wealth: £6.2billion

The American married couple (above) have a fortune of £6.2billion made mostly from his cloud computing software company,

They have charitable cause called the Salesforce Foundation, but are listed by name on the Earthshot website.

In the past they have concentrated on education and anti-poverty programmes.

Mr Benioff once suggested those who had become rich should give their money away as they make it.

Salesforce chairman Marc Benioff, left, and Ivanka Trump during a 2019 news conference

Marc Benioff and Lynne Benioff attend the TIME Person Of The Year Celebration in 2018

His ‘pay as you go’ model informed his foundation which took one per cent of profit and out it in the charity.

In recent years they have moved further towards environmental change, with Salesforce committing to reduce greenhouse gas and the development of the Benioff Ocean Initiative.

In 2018 Salesforce said it aimed to be entirely dependent on renewable energy by 2022. 

The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation

Founders: Paul and Jody Allen

Personal wealth: £15.5billion

This charity is named after its late creator (above), who was the co-founder of software giant Microsoft.

It started focusing on the Pacific Northwest and on regional arts and the environment but has since spread its reach.

Now it looks to preserve ocean health, protect wildlife and fight climate change.

It is currently run by Mr Allen’s sister Jody after his death in October 2018.

She said she was determined that his £15.5billion fortune would be used to help other people.

Ms Allen said: ‘I have been given the great responsibility to steward Paul’s wealth in service of his vision for the future.

‘While the loss of Paul is overwhelming, I am dedicated to preserving and implementing Paul’s vision.’

When he was still alive he said that he thought the rich should help others.

He said in 2010: ‘I believe that those fortunate to achieve great wealth should put it to work for the good of humanity.’


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