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The Austrian millionaire heiress wants to distribute her wealth  world

The Austrian millionaire heiress wants to distribute her wealth world

Even before she inherited millions of euros, Marilyn Engelhorn made it clear that she planned to donate most of it – Photo: Hannah Fasching

A German-Austrian heiress gathers a group of citizens to decide how she should donate much of the wealth she inherited from her grandmother.

Marilyn Engelhorn, 31, who lives in Vienna, wants 50 Austrians to decide how to redistribute €25 million (R$133 million) of her inheritance.

“I inherited a fortune, and therefore power, without doing anything for it,” she said. “And the state doesn’t even want to tax it.”

Austria abolished the inheritance tax in 2008 and became one of the few European countries not to impose such a fee.

Engelhorn considers this unfair.

She is a descendant of Friedrich Engelhorn, founder of the German chemical and pharmaceutical company BASF, and inherited millions when her grandmother died in September 2022.

The American magazine Forbes estimated Traudel Engelhorn-Vecchiato's wealth at 4.2 billion US dollars (20.4 billion Brazilian reals). Even before her grandmother died, the granddaughter had already announced that she wanted to donate about 90% of the inheritance.

Last Wednesday (10/1), 10,000 invitations addressed to randomly selected Austrian citizens were sent by mail in Austria.

Those who want to participate in the Engelhorn initiative can register online or by phone.

Out of 10,000 Austrians (all over 16 years old), 50 will be chosen to participate in the council that will make the decision, in addition to 15 alternative members in case of withdrawal.

“If politicians don’t do their job and redistribute income, I will have to redistribute my wealth myself,” she explained in her statement.

In May 2022, Marilyn Engelhorn joined other millionaires in Davos to call for higher taxes on the rich – Image: Phil White

The heiress's money redistribution board will consist of 50 people “from all age groups, federal states, social classes and backgrounds,” said Christoph Hofinger, managing director of the Foresight Institute, which supports the initiative.

He added that the group will be invited “to contribute their ideas in order to develop joint solutions for the benefit of society as a whole.”

They will participate in a series of meetings to be held in Salzburg with academics and civil society organizations from March to June this year.

Organizers say the meetings will be barrier-free, with childcare and interpreters provided if needed. Travel costs will be covered, and participants will receive €1,200 for each weekend they participate.

Marilyn Engelhorn believes that the discussions will be a “service to democracy” and that participants should be adequately compensated for this.

“I have no right to object,” she said. “I am putting my assets at the disposal of these 50 people and putting my trust in them.”

If they can't come to a “broadly supported” decision on what to do with the money, the money will go back to Engelhorn.

It is unclear exactly what percentage of the inheritance will be donated, although she said in 2021 that she wanted to distribute at least 90% of the total, because she had done nothing to earn money and had gotten lucky in the “birth lottery.”

Sixteen years after Austria abolished the inheritance tax, the issue remains controversial, and the opposition Social Democrats have called for the tax to be reinstated.

SPD leader Andreas Babler told ORF public radio he wants this to be a prerequisite for possible coalition talks after Austria's next general election, scheduled for the end of this year.

The conservative People's Party, currently the main partner in Austria's coalition government, rejected this proposal.

The party's general secretary, Christian Stocker, said that although Babler wanted to “increase the burden on the people of our country with his call for a wealth and inheritance tax, the People's Party offers relief. We reject new taxes, and people should end up with more taxes.” net income.”