Austrian group finalises 25-million-euro giveaway of heiress’s money

A total of 77 organisations will receive funds from Austrian-German heiress Marlene Engelhorn’s inheritence.

People tasked with giving away 25 million euros of Engelhorn's fortune name the organisations that will receive a share of the funds in Vienna, Austria, on June 18, 2024 [Lisa Leutner/Reuters]

A group tasked with giving away much of Austrian-German heiress Marlene Engelhorn’s inheritance money has announced who is benefitting.

The 32-year-old activist who advocates for higher taxes on the rich made headlines in January when she announced she would give away 25 million euros ($26.8m) – the bulk of her inheritance.

She entrusted a team to set up a citizens council of 50 Austrians to come up with ideas on how to give away her wealth.

A total of 77 organisations that fight poverty and work towards improving environmental protection, education, integration, health and affordable housing in Austria are receiving money, the group said on Tuesday.

Over a couple of years, individual organisations will receive amounts ranging from 40,000 euros ($43,000) to 1.6 million euros ($1.7m).

The heiress is a descendant of Friedrich Engelhorn from the family that founded BASF, the German chemical and pharmaceutical giant. She inherited millions when her grandmother died in 2002.

Engelhorn had said even before her grandmother died that she wished to hand out about 90 percent of her inheritance.

“If politicians don’t do their job and redistribute, then I have to redistribute my wealth myself,” she said in a statement in January.

“Many people struggle to make ends meet with a full-time job and pay taxes on every euro they earn from work. I see this as a failure of politics, and if politics fails, then the citizens have to deal with it themselves.”

Engelhorn did not participate in Tuesday’s news conference after withdrawing from the process once the council was launched.

List of organisations
A person holds a paper showing the allocation of the funds of Engelhorn’s fortune, which will benefit groups working to improve environmental, educational, health and housing conditions [Lisa Leutner/Reuters]

From March to June, 50 Austrians were paid to meet on six weekends in the city of Salzburg to develop solutions “in the interests of society as a whole”.

Four members of the council shared their experiences on Tuesday, saying they enjoyed the “democratic project”, hailing it as an “exciting challenge” to find solutions to pressing issues “as equals” and based on consensus.

The youngest participant, 17-year-old student Kyrillos Gadalla, said he had “learned a lot” from every conversation he had with different council members, the oldest of whom was 85.

The charity Oxfam said in a report in January that the world’s billionaires are $3.3 trillion richer than they were in 2020 while nearly five billion people worldwide have grown poorer as it slammed “levels of obscene inequality”.

Addressing the 56th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk also cited Oxfam as saying the wealth of the world’s five richest billionaires has more than doubled since the start of this decade while 60 percent of humanity has grown poorer.

Turk said “4.8 billion people are poorer than they were in 2019”, adding that the wealth gap between men and women globally was $100 trillion.

Source: News Agencies