Family Divided Over Future of Davidson Foundation

Oakland County Probate Court in Michigan has dismissed a petition to divide the foundation assets of industrial magnate William Davidson, casting the future of the billion-dollar philanthropy in doubt, Crain's Detroit Business reports.

In a decision announced earlier this month, the court ruled that because the foundation had been incorporated in Delaware, it did not have jurisdiction in the case. As a result, the late billionaire's family continues to battle for control of Davidson's philanthropic legacy.

Because records in the case have been sealed, details about the disagreement are hard to come by. According to Crain's, Davidson's son-in-law, Jonathan Aaron, who serves as president of the foundation and co-executor of Davidson's estate, filed the petition because he believes some members of the board want to depart from the vision for the foundation outlined by Davidson before his death in 2009. The petition, which Aaron intends to re-file in Delaware, was opposed by his mother-in-law, Karen Davidson, and Davidson's son, Ethan, who both serve on the board of the foundation alongside Aaron's wife, Mary, Davidson's step-daughter and Karen Davidson's daughter. Also seated on the board are Ralph Gerson, Davidson's nephew; Oscar Feldman, a former business partner; and Eli Saulson, Davidson's cousin.

With about $1 billion in assets, the foundation is expected to award roughly $50 million a year in grants and charitable contributions. The Detroit Free Press reported in 2012 that the foundation supports Jewish education efforts globally and cultural institutions and projects in Detroit.

In a statement released after the hearing, Karen and Ethan Davidson said that they hope the "situation can be resolved as quickly and as appropriately as possible."

Chad Halcom. "Family Split Over Davidson Foundation's $1 Billion in Assets." Crain's Detroit Business 05/16/2013. "RUMBLINGS: Davidson Clan Divides Over Foundation." Crain's Detroit Business 05/19/2013.