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Newman’s Own Foundation sued by late actor’s daughters: It has ‘lost its way’

Two daughters of Paul Newman said their father’s foundation disregarded the actor’s wishes when it halved the amount of money his children could use for their own philanthropy.

(CN) — Saying their father had long attempted to instill his “benevolent charitable sensibilities” in his children, two daughters of Paul Newman said the Newman’s Own Foundation has disregarded the late actor’s wishes regarding his children.

The foundation uses the name and images of the blue-eyed actor known for The Color of Money and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to sell salad dressing, salsa, lemonade and tomato sauce, donating the profits to charity.

As part of the arrangement, Susan and Elinor Newman said their father conditioned the use of his image on the foundation giving their foundations each $400,000 a year so they could direct where that money went.

But in a suit filed Tuesday in a Connecticut Superior Court, Newman’s daughters said the Newman’s Own Foundation halved the money that was allocated to them, and they worry their father’s foundation will eventually cut them out of the philanthropic process.

“Over the years, however, Newman’s Own Foundation lost its way and strayed from its mission to preserve and honor Paul Newman’s legacy,” the 34-page complaint says. “The years since Mr. Newman’s death consist of a long and consistent pattern of disregard, by those in control, of Mr. Newman’s specific intentions and direction, coupled with mismanagement, scandal, and questionable practices.”

The suit, filed by attorney Brian Cohen of the firm Lachtman Cohen, alleges the foundation breached its fiduciary duty and asks the court determine whether the foundations of Newman’s daughters should continue to receive $400,000 from the foundation to fund donations of their choosing.

Newman’s daughters asked the court to award them more than $1.6 million in damages that would be donated to charity.

In a statement, the Newman’s Own Foundation said it has to manage its finite resources while following the regulations that govern nonprofit organizations. While it said it asks the Newman family to recommend charities to support and it will continue to do so, its decisions on where the philanthropic dollars flow changes from year-to-year.

“Best practices surrounding philanthropic organizations do not allow for the establishment of perpetual funding allotments for anyone, including Nell and Susan Newman,” the statement said. “A meritless lawsuit based on this faulty wish would only divert money away from those who benefit from Paul Newman’s generosity.”

In the 2019 tax year, Newman’s Own Foundation received more than $24 million in revenue, according to its tax filing.

According to the complaint, problems between Paul Newman’s family and the foundation began around the time of the actor’s death in September 2008 from leukemia and lung cancer. Newman’s business manager Brian Murphy and the foundation’s eventual CEO Robert Forrester — neither of whom are named as parties in the complaint — allegedly began to make decisions about the late-actor’s estate as his health was in decline.

Newman named them members of the foundation, with the accompanying power to appoint its board of directors, at a time when he was complaining of confusion and memory loss, the complaint says.

What followed, the complaint says, were moves by the foundation that contradicted what Newman wanted. For instance, it stopped funding the actor’s racing team in 2009 and the Scott Newman Center that the actor started in honor of his son, who had died of an overdose in 2011.

At the same time, Newman’s Own Foundation allegedly increased its expenditures by buying a building and paying for trips where Forrester traveled first class, the complaint says.

In 2020, despite the sales of Newman’s Own branded foods allegedly doing well, the women said the foundation decided to slash the funding to the daughter’s foundations by 50%.

Now, Elinor and Susan Newman say they have video and documents that show their father wanted his foundation to continue to fund their charitable efforts.  

The complaint says Newman’s will includes a provision that says anyone who contests it would forfeit a right to the estate.

“For purposes of clarity and the avoidance of doubt, this complaint is not challenging Mr. Newman’s will or the Living Trust; instead … this complaint seeks to enforce the provisions of the will and the Living Trust,” it says.

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