This Year's Most Generous Billionaire Philanthropist Has Been Dead Since 2006
It’s pretty impressive to top the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s list of America’s 50 most generous donors, but it just defies the imagination to make the list 5 years after passing away. Still, that’s the story of 2011 and the late Ms. Margaret Cargill.
This fact was swiftly picked up here, in a recent Forbes article, and as it turns out the reason for such successful giving can be traced back to some complicated estate planning and finance work.
Cargill is a name that, depending upon your exposure to agribusiness, is either an utter unknown in the discussion of wealth (the media is infatuated with Mark Zuckerberg these days) or an utter no-brainer. And Cargill is synonymous with massive agribusiness, having topped the list of America’s Largest Private Companies for all but two of the last 24 years. The late Margaret Cargill was heir to the fortune.
At her death, Ms. Cargill left all of her shares of Cargill stock to be split between two charity foundations, the Anne Ray Charitable Trust and her own Margaret A. Cargill Foundation. But don’t forget, Cargill is a private company, albeit a large one, and that makes the stock rather difficult to value and liquidate.
The trust and the foundation sat idly by until a fortuitous moment when Cargill sold its shares in another company, a public company called the Mosaic Company, which gave them the opportunity to exchange private Cargill stock for public stock that could be liquidated to the tidy sum of $6 billion (that process hasn’t quite finished up, but they’re counting it for 2011 anyhow).
It’s important to remember these kinds of limitations when it comes to assets in either estate planning or charitable giving. Ms. Cargill’s wealth was essentially locked up in private stock and so, despite the inefficiencies of doing so, that is what she gave when it came time to bequeath and give that wealth away to charity.
Luckily, however, Ms. Cargill did her charity work through the powerful intermediaries of charitable trusts and foundations, which were in a position to make such gifts work.
At least there’s next year for Paul Allen, George Soros, and Michael Bloomberg, the next three (living) names on the list of millionaire donors, but 2011 belongs to Ms. Cargill.
Reference: Forbes (February 6, 2012) “This Year's Most Generous Billionaire Philanthropist Has Been Dead Since 2006”