msnbc.com
updated 3/23/2010 1:55:41 PM ET 2010-03-23T17:55:41

The billionaire founder of a British supermarket chain is donating most of his fortune to charity to fulfill a "pact with God."

Albert Gubay, a penniless candy seller in Wales after World War II, says he made a vow with God at the time to hand over half his fortune to the Catholic Church if he ever became rich.

Gubay went on to found the Kwik Save grocery chain and later accumulated development properties in Liverpool and Manchester. Now 82, the retail entrepreneur says he's making good on his charitable promise.

Gubay, a lifelong Roman Catholic, has placed his business empire — valued at roughly $690 million, according to Forbes — into a charitable trust. Upon his death, half of that money will go to causes identified by the Catholic Church, with the other half to go to good causes selected by the trustees, BBC News reported Tuesday.

Gubay ranked at No. 880 in Forbes 2010 list of the world's billionaires, with a total fortune worth $1.1 billion. He lives on the quiet British tax haven of the Isle of Man with his second wife and has two children with his first wife.

"I want to carry on supporting good causes, but my whole focus in the next few years is to work as hard as I can to meet my target of a 1 billion pounds ($1.5 billion) charity. Every penny wasted or lost reduces the pot available to the charity," he told the Daily Mail.

'Make me a millionaire'
In a 1997 television documentary, the media-shy Gubay said he came out of the Royal Navy after WWII "with a demob suit and 80 pounds."

"I borrowed 100 pounds and made the pact with God: Make me a millionaire — and you can have half of my money."

He added: "My belief in a day of reckoning keeps me on the straight and narrow."

Gubay plans to continue running his companies until he dies and wants to maximize profits for the Albert Gubay Charitable Foundation, which now owns them, according to the Daily Mail.

"Albert is a very frugal man and has dedicated his life to good causes," said John Nugent, chairman of the Gubay Foundation. "His priority now is to maximize the asset base of the company."

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