Austrian heiress's €25 million giveaway finalised

AFP - [email protected]
Austrian heiress's €25 million giveaway finalised
Austrian Marlene Engelhorn, who inherited from her family who owns the Germany's chemical giant BASF, poses with a placard reading "Tax the rich!" at the entrance of the Congress center on the opening of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, on January 15, 2024. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

The group charged with giving away the bulk of Austrian-German heiress Marlene Engelhorn's multi-million-euro inheritance on Tuesday announced the dozens of organisations, projects and initiatives due to benefit.


The 32-year-old activist who advocates for higher taxes on the rich made headlines in January when she announced that she would be giving away €25 million ($26.8 million)—the bulk of her inheritance.

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

Members of the citizens group on Tuesday said that Engelhorn's millions would be distributed among a total of 77 organisations that seek to improve environmental protection, education, integration, health and social issues, as well as poverty and affordable housing in Austria.

Engelhorn, who co-founded the Taxmenow initiative, is among an exclusive group of millionaires pushing for governments to tax them more to bridge the growing wealth gap amid a persistent cost-of-living crisis.

A scion of Friedrich Engelhorn, the founder of the BASF chemical giant, she inherited millions when her grandmother died in 2022.

Individual organisations will receive, over a couple of years, amounts ranging from €40,000 to the €1.6 million allotted to the Austrian society for nature conservation.

"The result is as diverse as the council itself. But what all the decisions have in common is that they want a fairer society... to support those who are discriminated against," project manager Alexandra Wang told a news conference on Tuesday.

From March to June, 50 Austrians were paid to gather 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. They said they enjoyed the "democratic project" and hailed 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 "learnt a lot" from every conversation he had with different council members, the oldest of whom was 85.

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


"A large part of my inherited wealth, which through my birth has elevated me to a position of power... has now been redistributed in accordance with democratic values," Engelhorn said in a statement.

In January, 10,000 randomly selected Austrians aged over 16 were invited to join the citizens council designed to reflect the Alpine country's demographic mix.

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, slamming "levels of obscene inequality".


Comments (1)

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AB 2024/06/19 20:23
The 'cost of living crisis' is caused by politicians and their irresponsible spending. They're aided and abetted by central banks that create money out of nothing. This is encouragement for politicians and their bankers to tax further all working individuals. How does she define 'rich'.
  • Ben McPartland, Editor, The Local Europe 2024/06/20 14:57
    Test comment.

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