Free Money | Lessons Learned from Grandpa
A Tale of Two Charities | The Pulte Team
Summary: Bill Pulte, a Michigan businessman and grandson of a famous billionaire, has started giving away money on Twitter. He claims it’s the wave of the future, a new kind of philanthropy, and he wants you to join in. Many people are skeptical, but the idea is promising. Can Bill Pulte pull it off? At the very least, he “has found something even better than puppy videos to make Twitter go berserk.”
Every Black Friday brings news of people throwing down over great deals. These reports have become so ubiquitous that the website Ranker published a list titled “Things People Are Most Likely to Fight Over on Black Friday.” Top vote getters were “the biggest television humanity is capable of producing” and “gaming consoles to help you avoid your family throughout the holidays.”
There may be a new contender for people to squabble over: Bill Pulte’s money. In a Periscope amateur broadcast on this last Black Friday, the Michigan millionaire announced, “Boy do I have a Black Friday special for you. I am going to be selling my money to some people who need it for zero dollars.”
Bill Pulte is the avowed “inventor of Twitter philanthropy,” which he describes as “Giving food, necessities, rent, and more to people in need.” He is now known by many simply by his Twitter handle of @Pulte. He was well known in parts of Michigan but not nationwide before @Pulte started just giving money away to people on Twitter.
Word got out in a big way, and he now has over 1.8 million followers. The Detroit News published a story on his newfound fame, titled “Bill Pulte Discovers the Key to Going Viral: Free Money.” It noted that he “has found something even better than puppy videos to make Twitter go berserk.”
With that fame has come a large heap of controversy. Critics snipe that Pulte is too politically conservative, allege that he has made “problematic” statements in the past, insinuate that he’s scamming people, complain that he takes too much credit for joint efforts, and in one case may have doxed him—that is, someone made public some of his private information to encourage harassment.
Several early reports of his Brewster’s Millions–like antics repeated one glaring error, which Pulte had to awkwardly correct. He had to tell reporters and supporters that he was a multimillionaire, not a billionaire. There was a good reason for the misunderstanding. William Pulte, Bill’s grandfather, was a billionaire. William is often shortened to Bill and the late William was known as Bill. Confusing the two Bill-Williams was an easy mistake. (For clarity, this report always refers to the grandfather as “William” and the grandson as “Bill.”)
William Pulte died in 2018 at age 85. He was a nationally famous builder who specialized in quantity. He built his first house at 18 with friends, turned a profit, and never looked back. In his obituary, the New York Times estimated that he built 600,000 homes in five decades. His company is currently building about 20,000 new homes a year.
The paper also quoted Bill Pulte on how quickly his grandfather scaled up. Growing up in Michigan exposed him to the benefits of mass production. “[Grandfather] started out building one home [a five-bedroom bungalow near the Detroit airport], then two homes, then three homes. Then he took it to the subdivisions, then took it to cities across America,” Bill Pulte said.
Builder magazine said this about the William Pulte’s legacy:
With all due respect to his own limitations—“I’m not a finance man”—Bill Pulte aimed to be the best and proudest of what he did, and it became a mission to spread and propagate being the best and proudest to people in what became a spoked network of field businesses, emanating, and ever-more-widely radiating out of the Bloomfield Hills, Mich. hub, into the Pulte Homes national empire.
In the next installment of Twitter Philanthropy, find out how Bill Pulte’s father inspired his philanthropy.