By Peter Rudegeair
Twitter Inc. co-founder and Chief Executive Jack Dorsey has pledged to set aside $1 billion to fund charitable causes starting with relief efforts toward the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Mr. Dorsey on Tuesday said the money would come from his stake in financial-tech company Square Inc., which he also co-founded and runs. The amount, he said via Twitter, represents about 28% of his wealth.
Mr. Dorsey said he would move around 19.8 million shares of Square to an entity called Start Small LLC, which would disburse the money. After focusing on dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak, Mr. Dorsey said, his money will go toward supporting other causes such as girls' health and education and universal basic income.
Mr. Dorsey's pledge is one of the largest individual financial commitments a chief executive has announced during the coronavirus pandemic and comes as many companies also have pledged funds to help deal with the fallout from the Covid-19 crisis.
Mr. Dorsey, who owns about 2% of Twitter stock, according to FactSet, said he was donating shares from Square, because his holding in the financial-services firm is larger. At current market prices, Mr. Dorsey's stake in Square is valued at a little under $3 billion, based on the amount of class B shares he reported having in April 2019.
"The impact this money will have should benefit both companies over the long-term because it's helping the people we want to serve," he said in a series of tweets. "I hope this inspires others to do something similar, " he said.
The broader market slump from the continuing health crisis has dented Mr. Dorsey's net worth. Shares in both Twitter and Square have slumped in recent weeks.
Twitter last month warned its financial performance would fall short in the quarter because the spread of the coronavirus has depressed advertising spending, even as users have flocked to the social-media site. Twitter's stock is down around 20% in the last month.
Square's stock has slid around 40% since the end of February. The payments company said on March 24 that the volume of payments it processed for its small-business customers over the previous 10 days fell 25% from a year earlier, as it cited the impact of the coronavirus.
Mr. Dorsey has built a reputation for eccentricities that sometimes have raised eyebrows among investors. Last year, he said he would spend part of this year working from Africa. Last month, amid a bruising battle with activist hedge fund Elliott Management Corp. that was pushing for his ouster at Twitter, he said he was reconsidering the plan because of the Covid-19 outbreak. The two parties struck a truce days later that allowed Mr. Dorsey to retain his dual-CEO positions.
Write to Peter Rudegeair at Peter.Rudegeair@wsj.com