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Austrian heiress’ 25 million euro giveaway finalized

A large part of the fortune of Marlene Engelhorn, who co-founded the Taxmenow initiative, will go to 77 groups focusing on the environment, education and affordable housing.

VIENNA (AFP) — The group charged with giving away the bulk of Austrian-German heiress Marlene Engelhorn's multimillion-euro inheritance on Tuesday announced the dozens of organizations, 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 euros ($26.8 million) — 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.

Members of the citizens group on Tuesday said that Engelhorn's millions would be distributed among a total of 77 organizations 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 the founder of BASF chemical giant, Friedrich Engelhorn, she inherited millions when her grandmother died in 2022.

Individual organizations will receive, over a couple of years, amounts ranging from 40,000 euros to the 1.6 million euros 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, saying they enjoyed the "democratic project," hailing it 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.

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Engelhorn did not participate in Tuesday's news 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 over age 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 5 billion people worldwide have grown poorer, slamming "levels of obscene inequality."

By Agence France-Presse

Categories / International

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