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Posted on Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 12:48 p.m.

Domino's founder Tom Monaghan pledges half of his fortune to charity

By Nathan Bomey


Domino's founder and billionaire philanthropist Tom Monaghan, pictured in 2008 outside the Domino's Farms Office Park in Ann Arbor Township, signed a pledge to give away at least half his wealth.

File photo |

Tom Monaghan, the founder of Ann Arbor-based Domino's Pizza who now focuses his time on Catholic philanthropy, is officially pledging to give away at least half his fortune.

Monaghan signed the "Giving Pledge," a campaign by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, his wife Melinda Gates and investor Warren Buffett to convince the nation's extremely rich people to donate at least half of their wealth to philanthropic causes before or after their deaths.

Monaghan's net worth today is unclear. BusinessWeek estimated in 2005 that he had $500 million in assets but had already distributed or pledged to give away $451 million.

"I came into the world penniless and as a Catholic Christian, I know that I cannot take any of it with me, so it has long been my desire to use the material resources that I have been blessed with to help others in the most meaningful ways possible," Monaghan wrote in a letter explaining his pledge.

"I am very grateful not only for the resources that I have been blessed with, but the opportunity to use these resources to help others in the best way I know how."

Since selling his homegrown global pizza delivery chain in 1998, Monaghan has focused his time almost exclusively on his efforts to spread Catholicism through education. In 2009, his Ave Maria School of Law moved from Ann Arbor to Naples, Fla. to be located near Ave Maria University in Ave Maria, Fla.

Monaghan indicated in his letter that he plans to focus most of his donations on his Catholic education initiatives. He wrote:

After selling Domino’s, I created a number of priorities that would guide my giving. However, I soon concluded that I needed to focus these priorities even more (as my resources were finite), and I eventually concluded that the most important thing I believed I could do with the resources that I had been blessed with was to help build quality, faithful Catholic education.

A number of years before, I had started supporting Catholic education by getting involved with grade schools, and this was great, but building schools was expensive. I realized that to have a more global impact, I would need to focus on Catholic higher education - to train the teachers, the principals, the future Catholic university and seminary professors.

So, from my experience of sitting on numerous college and university boards and the expertise of some well respected Catholic academics, we set out on a journey to establish Ave Maria University and Ave Maria School of Law.

Since that time, I have not only committed my personal assets to these institutions, but they have become my life’s work, as I am now going around the country raising money for them.

The pledge is consistent with Monaghan's long-standing aim to "die broke," as the Detroit Free Press put it in 1998.

In 2008, Monaghan told Ann Arbor Business Review he wanted to "help as many people as possible, particularly through the university, which I hope will be a beacon and a model for other Catholic universities. By and large, most of them are in financial straits - and they're afraid to be too religious."

Monaghan now lives in Florida but occasionally travels back to the Ann Arbor area, where his legacy is still visible. He was responsible for the construction of the nearly 1 million-square-foot Frank Lloyd Wright-style Domino's Farms Office Park visible from US-23 in Ann Arbor Township.

But his agenda has also led him to spar with some in the Ann Arbor region over the years.

As recently as 2008, asked how he hopes to be remembered in Ann Arbor, he told Business Review, "I don't think I really think about it or really care."

Contact's Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or You can also follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's newsletters.



Wed, Nov 14, 2012 : 2:07 a.m.

Maybe a kind man but his personal body guard in the 80's raped a woman who will never forget that pain.

David Briegel

Sun, Aug 8, 2010 : 5:43 p.m.

Please, can we cut his taxes even more? In the name of his God? Most of his supporters here want to cut his taxes!! He didn't make enough!


Sun, Aug 8, 2010 : 10:53 a.m.

A2guy gave a very good tip: check out and You might be surprised to learn about staff members who were fired when they tried to blow the whistle on some unsavory events involving Ave Maria College of Law when it was in Ann Arbor. Hint: See "Boys cherries." For someone who purports to be such a good Christian, he thought nothing of ruining the careers of people who came to work for him -- literally -- in good faith.

Jay Thomas

Sat, Aug 7, 2010 : 3:40 p.m.

Monaghan has always been treated rather shabbily in this town since his conservative and religious views became known.


Sat, Aug 7, 2010 : 2:21 p.m.

Tom Monaghan is a businessman and a philanthropist. He wouldn't have the money to give away if he had not been a shrewd businessman. One need not agree with the way he is giving it away now to see that he is a philanthropist. It's his prerogative to give it away to endeavors that he supports. I applaud him for it. Don't like it? Make your millions and give your money away as you see fit. By the way, if you look at the list of others who've signed the pledge to give away half their assets, you'll see it has room for growth.

Jay McNally

Sat, Aug 7, 2010 : 9:49 a.m.

My post earlier was not accepted, apparently it was too harsh for the delicate community here. Several things: 1) There are many articles posted all over the Internet that give some history on Tom Monaghan. Two blog sites are excellent: 2)This article is a puff piece, probably generated from a press release from Monaghan. There is a lot more to Tom's behavior than his version of what he is doing. Just as a point of balance and fair play, if not honesty, Nathan should report that Tom's university is NOT allowed to even call itself "Catholic," as the local bishop there fought Monaghan for many months over whose version of the faith would be represented at the church there. This is a story that needs to be told in any discussion of Tom's claiming to be Catholic.

Charles Knaeble

Sat, Aug 7, 2010 : 9:42 a.m.

Why doesn't he leave the money to all the Ma & Pa pizza joints he drove out of business?


Sat, Aug 7, 2010 : 4:05 a.m.

jcj, Ditto! Thanks.


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 9:07 p.m.

@Cash After rereading your post I believe we share more beliefs than I thought. But either way I respect your point of view.


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 2:26 p.m.

Hmmmmm, a man who lives his life following the beliefs he chooses to believe in and whose works represent his choice of beliefs. A man who stands by his beliefs and chooses to defend them. I believe that characteristic is called integrity, a character trait few and far between in many men (and women) of today. Something we all probably need a little more of. I always find the people who support moral relativism to be very amusing in posting comments. I'm not quite sure some commenters actually understand how illogical their points are. But that's okay, they should feel free to demonize someone who stands for their beliefs. Christ said it would happen and it does.


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 11:43 a.m.

hehe well his law school couldn't compete with a real law school like the UofM :P


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 10:47 a.m.

jcj, I have core beliefs that fit the mold of the Liberal side of things. I can label mysely! However I do not decide what each and every individual in a group thinks and believes.....I do not speak for all Liberals. The difference is I label myself as a Liberal, but I do not paint all Liberals or Conservatives as generous or selfish or art lovers or religious fanatics....etc. That's the difference.

Sam Adems

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 10:18 a.m.

Based on the comments above, I'd say that this town has way too many Peter Keatings; too few Howard Roarks!


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 9:55 a.m.

Oops. The photo won't display.


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 7:31 a.m.

Hey, as long as Brad and Craig are 501c3 organizations, they're "entitled"!

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 7:16 a.m.

@Brad "I just did the same thing. I pledged half of my forture to the "Me Foundation". What a charitable person I am now!" May I suggest for PR purposes you rename your foundation the "Itsnotme Foundation"


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 7:10 a.m.

I just did the same thing. I pledged half of my forture to the "Me Foundation". What a charitable person I am now!


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 7:04 a.m.

This campaign that Gates and Buffet have started is genius. It's PR for the rich as they donate the money they were smart enough and productive enough to earn. They're donating their money as they see fit to research, education and care for the deserving. They're demonstrating that it's not about accumulating the money for themselves. The campaign is also smart. The rich have the ability to do with their money as they see fit. That is, "spread their wealth" the way they want it spread. If they've given the money to nonprofits, then it's not available for any government entity to grab and spread to the have-nots just because they have nothing.


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 6:52 a.m.

@Rodney T "psst, Cash....your mind is open. Close it ASAP and post again please. Thanks in advance." Fantastic! I LOVE sarcasm in the morning. :)

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 6:30 a.m.

@jcj "Seems to me you just labeled yourself. I would prefer to call myself an independent thinker with an open mind." seems to me you just......


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 6:27 a.m.

to the supporters of T.M.: yes, he has the right to do what he wants with his fortune, which even his critics have no reason to doubt was honestly earned: but when much of that money has gone/will go to the promulgation of nonsense in the educational arena ( i.e. creationism) and the fostering of patently unfair practices toward a large, law abiding population ( e.g. attempts to foster anti-gay legislation) he..and you.. damn well better expect the kinds of criticism/comment here. clearly his ego can handle it ( per his higher-than -the statue- of -liberty crucifix plan for a2 township). @ craig: re your linguistic question...either works as an adjective, as does the noun 'mel gisonuary' ( as in 'voluptuary).


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 6:24 a.m.

@Cash "To be clear I am a Liberal. And I am not a follower of any organized religion." "Perhaps if people weren't so quick to throw out labels and tried to think for themselves with an open mind, people could get along a lot better." Seems to me you just labeled yourself. I would prefer to call myself an independent thinker with an open mind. But that does not mean I cannot have strong beliefs about certain things.


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 6:07 a.m.

stunhsif, Your generalization is just as bad as those who generalize about organized religion. Not all Liberals condemn him, and not all Conservatives support him. I admire the man. He constantly evaluates his own life and his own values. The fact that I don't follow that same path is immaterial. To be clear I am a Liberal. And I am not a follower of any organized religion. But I will defend anyone's right to believe and practice their beliefs on an organized or personal level. If he happened to be a Jew or Muslim I would feel the same. Perhaps if people weren't so quick to throw out labels and tried to think for themselves with an open mind, people could get along a lot better. Generalizations and labels....they close the mind and stifle new thoughts. Keep an open mind.

Marshall Applewhite

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 12:25 a.m.

These comments are an absolute disgrace. Thanks for your generosity, Tom.


Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 10:56 p.m.

In an interview a few years ago, Apple CEO Steve Jobs commented on Bill Gates' charity commitments following his retirement from Microsoft: "I think the worlds a better place because Bill realized that his goal isnt to be the richest guy in the cemetery, right? Thats a good thing...." Whatever one thinks of Monaghan — who in turn doesn't think much of tree town since we're nearly all to the left of Opus Dei and Herbert Hoover — he does plow mounds of his cash into something he considers bigger than himself that he deeply cares about. At least there are other rich folks and other foundations who don't slant their charity so far to the right. And micro-donations made from across the internet are one way that we little folk can pool substantial funds from a great many small contributions, either to counter or to complement expressions of great individual wealth.

John Alan

Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 10:48 p.m.

Regardless of these.... there are not many people who are willing to give half of their wealth away. Got to respect him what he is willing to do. How many of the people with negative comments have or are willing to do this?


Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 9:54 p.m.

stunhsif is right on the money!


Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 9:12 p.m.

This is not about religion, Tom never made a stinking dime off his religious beliefs. His religious beliefs have cost him many many millions. He made his money by selling pizza, starting with nothing but "hope and a little change" and the guts to risk it all. BTW it was his money he was risking and not the taxpayer's. The guy is going to give away half his wealth and ding dongs want to bash him for it. The truth is and the facts back it up, conservatives give far more of their income to charity. Liberals "talk the talk", but they don't, "walk the walk". Good Day No Luck Necessary


Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 7:36 p.m.

Haven't you guys learned that arguing religion is pointless? I suspect there are some here that would support donating to a mosque. Or to a local museum. or to a hospital? There all fine with me as long as you come by your money honestly. And I believe Mr Monaghan did. I have more of a problem with the millions that are "donated" to the U of M. There is all kinds of kick back with those "donations"!

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 7:24 p.m.

@bedrog: "Clearly there is a level of personal hubris here that is 'mel gibsonian' to say the least and is a matter of public record." I need a clarification. Do you mean to say "mel gibsonian" or did you really mean "mel gibsonesque"? I need to know which to add to my Internet dictionary.


Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 7:22 p.m.

The man is giving away his millions that he made from pizza that YOU bought and all you can do is sit around and bash him. Heaven forbid anyone have a religious belief or make a choice that you don't agree with. If you hate him so much for his beliefs and choices then don't buy the product in which he made his money. Everyone has beliefs and are entitled to them, maybe you should all make yours public so we can bash you for them too.


Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 7:11 p.m.

cash...About 10 years ago the ANN ARBOR OBSERVER did a profile of monaghan in which some pretty 'exotic',shall we say, infrastructure and beliefs were described, including underground chapels at DOMINO FARMS, stocked with holy water where he could wait out armageddon. And then there was the issue of the 250' high crucifix he wanted to erect ( which fortunately the township rejected). Clearly there is a level of personal hubris here that is 'mel gibsonian' to say the least and is a matter of public record. I believe in his faith excessive pride is a sin,is it not?? All of this is quite on topic if we are talking about charity ( supposedly a humble activity) vs. preening influence peddling.


Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 6:58 p.m. mistake re accusations of improper moderation. i guess i forgot to push the 'submit' button on my previous... getting old i guess ( although what little $$ i have is going to my maybe tom m. and i will wind up in differnt places... which is fine with me.


Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 6:56 p.m.

Macabre sunset, "I would argue that since the purpose of religion is to guarantee oneself a place in heaven, donations to a church can not be considered charity." The purpose of religion is to guarantee oneself a place in heaven? Wow! That is really strange. You can define the purpose of religion for all of us? I don't think so. I know a lot of people who think their religion gives them the strength to go on every day. The elderly and ill see their religion as sustaining them to get through their pain and discomfort. It gives them peace. For some people, believing in something other than themselves is comfort and even a joy. But in my entire life I have never heard anyone say they believed their religion guaranteed them a place in heaven. A religion like that would be quite macabre.


Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 6:33 p.m.

Partial atonement for the man who forced Bo to fire Ernie Harwell - bad karma forever after that.


Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 5:30 p.m. quite factual posts on monaghans educational 'charity' have not appeared and they bear directly on the issues discussed here...esp in support of 'katmando's' position. his ave maria law school was the point organization in an attempt to force creationism into public school curricula, notably in a well known case in dover pa., which ave maria lost. the same school also has been in the forefront of attempted anti-gay legislation both locally and nationally, the former in a case attempting to deprive same sex domestic partners of benefits. the whole issue of whether such blatant political activities should be tax-payer enabled as tax-exempt 'charitity'is indeed problematic...and should not be moderated out of this thread.

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 5:09 p.m.

I would argue that since the purpose of religion is to guarantee oneself a place in heaven, donations to a church can not be considered charity. The church is the biggest tax dodge in the history of mankind.


Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 4:27 p.m.

I attended the same Toastmaster group as he did. Tom doesn't care about anything that doesn't have anything and I mean anything to do with his religous beliefs. When he lived here it was all about him and his beliefs wouldn't help anyone else unless it had to do with his beliefs.


Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 4:21 p.m.

Cash: ava maria law school. Ann Arbor wouldn't put up with it so he took it south. He tried to turn EMU into a catholic college.


Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 3:50 p.m.

katmandu, Can you please explain that? At which school was this?


Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 3:36 p.m.

Thank you, Tom, for thinking of others. The "Giving Pledge" is a good thing.


Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 2:52 p.m.

Dear cash. Yes! He wants to force sharia law, I mean catholic law on us. Up until 1964 you had to put which religous belief you were and if you weren't the right religon they wouldn't hire you. And I believe he can do anything he wants with is money but it doesn't mean I have to agree with it.


Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 2:31 p.m.

Great, just what is needed, investing money to further brainwash people. Is it necessary to say Catholic Christians? Can you be Catholic and not a Christian?


Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 2:23 p.m.

kmgeb2000, I guess I am missing your point. You don't like the way they made their money so they shouldn't give it to charity? or they shouldn't get any credit for giving it away to charity? Instead they should what? Drive around in dressed in diamonds and furs like P Diddy and hoard it for themselves? I'm no fan of the rich but for Pete's sake if they give a chunk of their fortune to charity, good for them.


Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 2:17 p.m.

kmgeb2000-- Nobody will ever accuse you of having too few axes to grind. You know-- between you ever-loving devotion to macs/linux/whatever because none us really care whose product you fawn over, and your 'if they are rich, they must've ripped somebody off' class-warfare mentality. I am not going to tell Monaghan what to do with his money, any more than he will tell me what to do with mine. I earned mine, and he earned his. Nobody had a gun put to their head and was ordered to buy a pizza from him. The guy is as self-made as you can get, and should held out as an example to the poor and underprivileged as to what work ethic can achieve. Instead many 'advocates' that I see really show their true colors by demonizing him.


Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 1:38 p.m.

These billionaires who obtained their billions by fleecing millions of people out of the money (windows OS, insurance, etc.) and millions out of their livelihoods (outsourcing) expect us to be graciously thankful? It's great they are doing this considering the good that may be done, but will it end up as a 100 billion dollars tax write-off? How about an agreement without strings (exemptions)? My question is this, are these billionaires going to be looking for a tax exception under code 505 c of IRS so they are not going to pay taxes for their donation? Pardon this reant but, in Bill and Paul's case, they made they're billions selling software that too this day appears never ready for release (think service packs and criticl updates regularly). It is an operating system that cost more than the hardware to run it, today.

Top Cat

Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 1:27 p.m.

Mr. Monaghan is successful and generous. It would appear that many people who are neither resent him for it.


Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 1:25 p.m.

One thing about Tom Monaghan, he created a lot of non-automotive jobs in Michigan. We need more people like him. He is going to die broke because he knows that the tax laws in the U.S. will take a very large chunk of his fortune so why not give it to people who need it (His Choice) rather than let the government take it. Smart man!


Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 1:22 p.m.

@katmando, How have Catholic schools tried to shove their beliefs down your throat?


Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 1:19 p.m.

Giving half his money to an organization that wants to shove their religous beliefs down everybodies throat is not give to charity.

Morris Thorpe

Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 1:14 p.m.

psst, Cash....your mind is open. Close it ASAP and post again please. Thanks in advance.

Morris Thorpe

Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 1:11 p.m.

Dude is giving away millions and still gets bashed. To those critical, please let us know when you give away your fortune (which I suspect is made up of a used Subaru with "activist" stickers, a half-eaten bag of Cheetos, a bent slinky and $17.)


Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 1:10 p.m.

I am a Liberal and I still admire this man. I have talked with him one on one in the past and he is genuine in his beliefs. He lives his values to the core. He has an amazing strength of faith in God. Now, whether or not I agree with what he believes is immaterial.I think he got off on the wrong track but it doesn't matter what I think. It's his money and his right to give it to anyone he chooses. He isn't telling you or me what to do with our money! I came to admire him because in his own mind he is trying hard to do the right thing....even though I disagree with him. And he doesn't judge others for their beliefs. Admirable indeed.

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 1:06 p.m.

Sometimes someone who is truly decent and a good businessman as well can be derailed by religion. Too bad. He could have been a great man.

Somewhat Concerned

Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 12:58 p.m.

There are Catholic, anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-woman, reactionary right wing charities. His earlier idea was to build a city that only Christians (that means Catholics) would live in. These can be charities. Laudable charities is another question.


Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 12:50 p.m.

Wow!! This is a great thing to do. Especially hearing it from Mr.Monaghan who all the locals now because of Dominos.


Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 12:33 p.m.

Funny the Ave Maria website says it costs $27,814 to go there for a year.

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 12:33 p.m.

"Just because something is defined in tax law as a charity... Does not mean that people aren't getting paid." I'm not sure I understand your point. Are you suggesting a true charity would be run by all volunteers?


Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 12:32 p.m.

let the catholic bashing continue... its his money folks - he can do what he wants with it! all the liberal groupies who have no issue with redistribution of wealth from individuals to others cant comprehend he can nurture any cause he wants with his money? You have to hate him for it? Cause you dont approve of his cause? If he was building a muslim shrine would you care????? NOPE! and I am athiest - just an objectivest first!


Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 12:25 p.m.

Just because something is defined in tax law as a charity... Does not mean that people aren't getting paid.


Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 12:22 p.m.

Somewhat Concerned: Are you even dimly aware of Ave Maria University (campuses in Florida and Nicaragua) and the Rhodora J. Donahue Academy (k-12 school) in Florida? "All that money" hardly went just to a law school. Silverwings: You're saying that Ave Maria University, the Donahue Academy, The Ave Maria School of Law (to name just a few) are NOT charities? Better tell the IRS, then, which considers them charities.


Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 12:17 p.m.

Defining his enterprises as charity is a real stretch.

Somewhat Concerned

Thu, Aug 5, 2010 : 11:56 a.m.

All that money to a fourth-tier Catholic law school in Florida. What a guy.