July 13, 2024

Citizens group decides fate of heiress’ fortune

0

A citizens group has decided how the fortune of an Austro-German heiress will be given away.

Earlier this year, Marlene Engelhorn set up a group of 50 people to work out how to distribute the millions she inherited from her grandmother.

The money will go to 77 organizations, including social and climate groups, as well as prominent left-wing ones.

Ms Engelhorn, who is 32, made headlines in January when she announced she would be giving away €25 million (£21 million) — the bulk of her inheritance.

A descendant of Friedrich Engelhorn, the founder of the major German chemical and pharmaceutical company BASF, Ms Engelhorn is an outspoken advocate for wealth redistribution.

Earlier this year, she appointed a panel picked by a pollster to be representative of Austrian society to decide what should be done with her inheritance.

From March to June, the group met for six weekends in Salzburg to work out how to use the money.

The group has now determined it should go to 77 different organisations, charities and think tanks – which deal with a whole range of issues, including environmental protection, education, integration, health and social issues, as well as poverty, homelessness and affordable housing in Austria.

The smallest donation was €40,000 (£33,400) — for an initiative to support data-based reporting on climate change. The largest was €1.6m for the Austrian Nature Conservation Federation.

A million euros went to the Momentum Institute, a left-wing think-tank, and Attac Austria, which opposes neoliberal economic policy and “deregulated financial markets.”

Religious charities, including projects by the Catholic aid organisation Caritas, are also recipients.

The group said in most cases the money would be given out over several years.

The youngest participant in the panel, 17-year-old student Kyrillos Gadalla from Vienna, said he had “learnt a lot” from the experience.

In a statement, Ms Engelhorn said: “A large part of my inherited wealth, which elevated me to a position of power simply by virtue of my birth, contradicting every democratic principle, has now been redistributed in accordance with democratic values.”

She inherited millions when her grandmother, Traudl Engelhorn-Vechiatto, died in September 2022.

Traudl Engelhorn-Vechiatto’s wealth was estimated by US magazine Forbes at $4.2bn (£3.3bn; €3.8bn).

Even before her grandmother died, Ms Engelhorn had declared that she wanted to hand out much of her inheritance.

The sum she retains is undisclosed, but back in 2021, Ms Engelhorn said she wanted to hand out at least 90% of her wealth because she had done nothing to earn it and had merely struck lucky in a “birth lottery”.

In the past, Ms Engelhorn has called for inheritance tax to be reinstated in Austria.

Austria abolished inheritance tax in 2008, one of a handful of European countries that do not impose inheritance tax — or death duties.

About The Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *