Foundation Created by Johnny Carson Receives $156 Million Bequest

The foundation created by longtime Tonight Show host Johnny Carson has received $156 million from a personal trust established by the entertainer years before his death in January 2005, the Smoking Gun reports.

According to a tax return received by the IRS in May, the John W. Carson Foundation received $35.2 million in cash and $121.2 million in securities and royalty rights from the John W. Carson Trust during the fiscal year that ended last June. Previous tax returns, including those filed when Carson was alive, show that the trust regularly provided funds to the foundation, although prior transfers usually were between $1 million and $2 million.

The foundation's latest tax return lists sixty-seven grants totaling nearly $3 million, plus eight contributions totaling $5.7 million that the foundation approved for future payment, including $4 million to the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles, $100,000 to the Los Angeles Free Clinic, and $125,000 to a Planned Parenthood high school sex education initiative.

The bequest leaves the foundation with assets dwarfing most of, if not all, the largest Hollywood charities, including the foundation created by entertainment titan David Geffen, which has assets of some $80 million. Because there has never been a public accounting of Carson's estate, there is no way to know its total value, beneficiaries, or what percentage recent transfers from the estate represent. The extremely private entertainer did little to publicize his philanthropy, which included sizable donations to groups focused on the environment, AIDS, schools, and children, as well as nonprofits in Nebraska, where Carson grew up.

"Carnac the Munificent." Smoking Gun 08/09/2010.