Philadelphia Philanthropists Plan to Give Entire Fortune to Charity

Philadelphia Philanthropists Plan to Give Entire Fortune to Charity

Although they've already donated $325 million to charitable causes, Philadelphia philanthropists H. F. "Gerry" Lenfest, and his wife, Marguerite, plan to give away most of the rest of their nearly $800 million fortune within their lifetimes, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

Lenfest, who secured his fortune when he sold Suburban Cable to Comcast Corp. for $7.6 billion in 2000, told the Inquirer that he and his wife didn't believe in foundations that last for generations — nor did they plan to leave any of their fortune to their three children, who each inherited millions in the sale of Suburban. "I care about what happens after I die, but I can't control that," said Lenfest, who is known and admired throughout the region for his approachability and down-to-earth ways. "During your lifetime, you can direct how your wealth is spent for the most good. But after your death, it is problematic. You don't have the control."

By giving his money away now, Lenfest added, he can bring his experience as a businessman to bear on the causes and charities he funds. For instance, multi-million-dollar gifts from the Lenfests to the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts and the Philadelphia Museum of Arts require the organizations to balance their budgets and, in the case of the Kimmel Center, to increase ticket sales.

And while the couple's approach to philanthropy is not exactly typical, more people are considering them, said Dorothy S. Ridings, chief executive officer of the D.C.-based Council on Foundations. "There is a lot more conversation about whether the future should just take care of itself, and I will do what I can do while I'm alive."

Patricia Horn. "Happy to Give Away Millions." Philadelphia Inquirer 02/22/2004.