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Young Billionaires Seek VC Investing That Improves the World -- and Turns a Profit


At this weekend's Nexus Global Youth Summit, a gathering of uber-wealthy men and women under age 40, the focus was on social entrepreneurship.

MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL Zac Russell grew up in a family that knows a thing or two about investing. The company founded by his grandfather, George Russell, Jr., is a vast financial services company known to many for its Russell 2000 Stock Index (INDEXRUSSELL:RUT).

But it wasn't until the Russell Investments heir was 12 years old that his life changed in a big way. That's when his parents decided to sell the family business. "It was like winning the lottery," he says.

Russell is one of the advisers to the Nexus Global Youth Summit, the crème de la crème gathering of heirs and heiresses to the world's greatest fortunes. The conference, which just wrapped up this past weekend at New York University, boasts names that are recognizable to the public – Rockefeller, Kluge, Auchincloss, Bronfman, the Princess Aga Khan, and a handful of princes from the House of Saud.

Some of the public companies at which these families made their fortunes are no longer connected directly to the families and heirs. But their legacies are considerable: Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM), founded as Standard Oil by the Rockefellers; Vivendi (EPA:VIV), which owns the Seagram Co. long controlled by the Bronfmans, and Metromedia, which the Kluges sold to News Corp. (Nasdaq:NWS).

Another facet of the Nexus crowd consists of self-made entrepreneurs who are in many cases just as rich but less well-known outside rarified social circles. The one thing Nexus attendees have in common – besides vast wealth, of course – is that they're all under 40 and determined to use their inheritance to make the world a better place. Founder Jonah Wittkamper, who founded two Internet start-ups when he was barely out of college, is a leading voice on corporate social responsibility.
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