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April 1, 2001

Spreading the Wealth: Andrew Carnegie, the self-made rags to riches industrialist, created a chari

By Sanford Wexler

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  • Spreading the Wealth: Andrew Carnegie, the self-made rags to riches industrialist, created a chari

Walter Raquet is taking a leaf out of Andrew Carnegie's book, "The Gospel of Wealth."

The 56-year-old co-founder of Knight Trading Group in Jersey City is living proof that Carnegie's philosophy is alive and well.

In his book of 1889, Carnegie said you can't take your wealth with you.

All individual wealth, the U.S. industrialist wrote, beyond that which is necessary to meet the needs of a person's immediate family, should be placed in a trust fund for the community.

Walter Raquet, the son of a New York City firefighter, has established his own charitable foundation, the Raquet Family Foundation, with one million shares of Knight stock. And he has pledged 90 percent of his estate to charity upon his death. Raquet owns 7.3 million shares of Knight stock which at press time is valued at $110 million.

"Being charitable is very important to me," Raquet said. "It's a responsible thing to do. I'm big on volunteerism."

Blue-Collar Household

Nothing in Raquet's background, except perhaps his dad who became a successful investor, suggests that Raquet would metamorphose into a Carnegie figure himself. Raquet was born and raised in Cambria Heights, Queens, growing up in a blue-collar household.

"My father worked three jobs," he said. Indeed, Raquet's late father was hardly a typical civil servant. He managed to build up a nest egg that was worth one million dollars by investing shrewdly in the stock market, according to Raquet.

Raquet, a CPA, was at first reluctant to talk about his charitable endeavors. He does not think it makes him special to give away his millions. "I've always been involved in making charitable contributions," he said. "But I was never able to do it on the scale that I am able to do it right now."

Each year Raquet says he gives away about a million dollars to various charities. But donating money to charities is nothing new to him. Even before he became wealthy, he was involved in donating money to worthy causes. "I'd rather see individuals do things as opposed to the government," Raquet said.

What does Raquet's family think about his decision to donate most of his estate to charities? Raquet, who is married and has four adult children and two grandchildren, said the family is supportive.

"My wife and I feel very strongly that the children should earn their own money. There certainly will be enough left to make them live comfortably," he said. "Most [wealthy] people don't give ninety percent of their estate to charity. They try to pass the money onto their family."

Raquet may admire Andrew Carnegie's philanthropy but his role model is a contemporary billionaire: Bill Gates, who is leaving his children a relatively small portion of his huge estate, about ten million dollars apiece. Like Raquet, the world's richest man today is donating the bulk of his estate to charities.