Home News A group of Austrians picked 77 charities to receive the heiress’s wealth

A group of Austrians picked 77 charities to receive the heiress’s wealth


After six weekends of deliberations, a group of Austrian citizens decided this week how to divide the wealth of heiress Marlene Engelhorn, who donated most of her inheritance to charity in an attempt to challenge the system that allowed her to amass millions of euros.

Austria’s Guter Rat für Rückverteilung (German for “Good Redistribution Committee”), composed of 50 residents, is advised by experts. Select 77 organizations The company will receive funding from Ms. Engelhorn’s estate over the next few years.

Engelhorn, 32, made headlines this year for Turning to the public To help redistribute her wealth and challenge the lack of inheritance tax in her native Austria, she sent out an invitation to 10,000 Austrian residents in January to help her spend her €25 million (US$26.8 million) fortune, which she inherited after her grandmother’s death. From these residents, research group Foresight selected 50 residents from different backgrounds to form a committee.

Each organization will receive between 40,000 euros (about $43,000) and 1.6 million euros (about $1.7 million). The recipients include left-wing think tank Momentum, Attac Austria, an organization opposing neoliberal economic policies, the World Inequality Lab, climate organizations, human rights organizations, and dozens of other organizations.

According to the commission’s website, there are some rules. The funds cannot be donated to “unconstitutional, hostile, or inhumane” groups or individuals, nor can they be invested in for-profit institutions. The funds also cannot be redistributed to group members or “related parties.”

Engelhorn said in a telephone interview Wednesday that now that much of her fortune will be donated, she will no longer be able to live on her tax-free wealth. She had planned to join the workforce and pay taxes.

But she said even though her bank account has dwindled, she still remembers that she is in a privileged position.

“I will always be a person who comes from a wealthy, privileged background,” she said. “That cannot be changed or denied.”

Professor Michaela Moser, lecturer at the University of Applied Sciences St. Polten in Austria and expert advisor to the 50-member committee, said she was impressed by the level of engagement, discussion and the consensus reached in the end.

The commission sees its mission as two-pronged: to come up with ideas for how Austrian society should deal with the distribution of wealth, and to decide how to redistribute Ms. Engelhorn’s €25 million.

“Twenty-five million – in one sense, that’s a lot,” Ms. Moser said. But she added, “There are still many organizations in Austria and other countries that need support.”

The Engelhorn family’s multibillion-dollar fortune began with Friedrich Engelhorn, who founded BASF, one of the world’s largest chemical companies, in the 19th century. Another family business, Boehringer Mannheim, produces pharmaceuticals and medical diagnostic equipment. Sold to Roche for $11 billion 1997.

Ms. Engelhorn, who grew up in a mansion in a fashionable district of Vienna, has long pushed for tax policies to redistribute inherited wealth and address structural economic inequality. Austria abolished its inheritance tax in 2008.

Since there is no law imposing a tax on Ms. Engelhorn’s inherited wealth, she decided to redistribute it herself and seek public advice on how to spend her money. She is a member of the organization A Millionaire in the Service of Humanitywhich advocates for a wealth tax, and she also co-founded an organization called Tax Me Now.

Before announcing the project in January, Ms. Engelhorn had publicly pledged to give away at least 90% of her estate. A small action The super-rich not only want to redistribute wealth, they also want to challenge the structures that allowed them to inherit it.

Ms. Engelhorn said that in addition to giving away the majority of her wealth and being “one of many donors,” she would continue to fight for a more equal and fair distribution of wealth in the country. She said she hoped she could get other people talking about the issue, too.

“Please talk about money,” she said. “The more people involved, the better.”

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