Marlene Engelhorn: Austrian heiress announces plan for €25m giveaway

A citizen organisation is being established by an Austro-German heiress in order to assist her in determining the manner in which to distribute a substantial portion of the fortune that was bequeathed to her by her grandmother.

Marlene Engelhorn, a 31-year-old Vienna resident, requests that fifty Austrians determine the redistribution of €25 million (£21.5 million) from her inheritance.

"She stated, "I have inherited a fortune and, by extension, power without having done anything to earn it." "Additionally, the state is averse to taxing it."

Austria, one of only a handful of European nations to have eliminated death duties and inheritance tax, did so in 2008. Ms. Engelhorn considers that to be unjust.

Friedrich Engelhorn, the progenitor of the German chemical and pharmaceutical corporation BASF, bequeathed millions to her upon the demise of her grandmother in September 2022.

Forbes, an American publication, estimated Traudl Engelhorn-Vechiatto's net worth at $4.2 billion (£3.3 billion; €3.8 billion). Prior to her passing, her granddaughter had already indicated her intention to distribute approximately 90% of her inheritance.

Ten thousand invitations addressed to a random sample of Austrian citizens began to arrive in letterboxes in Austria on Wednesday.

Registration is available via phone or online for individuals interested in participating in the Good Council for Redistribution, an initiative led by Ms. Engelhorn. Fifty individuals will be selected from the initial sample of 10,000 Austrians aged 16 and above; an additional 15 substitute members will be chosen in the event that any individuals opt out.

Christoph Hofinger, Managing Director of the Foresight Institute, stated the heiress's money redistribution council would have 50 members "from all age groups, federal states, social classes and backgrounds".

He said the panel will "give their views in order to collectively develop solutions in the interests of society as a whole". From March to June, they will engage with academics and civil society organisations in Salzburg.

Facilitators promise barrier-free meetings with childcare and interpreters. Travel costs will be covered and participants will receive €1,200 every weekend.

Marlene Engelhorn thinks their discussions will be a "service to democracy" and should be paid for. "I have no veto powers," she claimed. "I trust these 50 people with my assets."

They return the money to Ms Engelhorn if they cannot make a "widely supported" conclusion.

In 2021, she declared she planned to give away at least 90% of her inheritance because she had won a "birth lottery" and done nothing to earn it.

Her team indicated she was keeping a financial buffer but has not disclosed how much.

The opposition Social Democrats want inheritance tax reintroduced 16 years after Austria repealed it.

Social Democrat leader Andreas Babler told ORF that he wants it to be a key condition for coalition negotiations during Austria's next general election later this year.

Austria's conservative People's Party, which leads the Greens in a coalition government, rejected his plan.

Christian Stocker, its general secretary, said Mr. Babler wants "to further burden individuals in our country with his wealth and inheritance tax request, the individuals's Party is offering relief. We oppose new taxes; individuals need more net income."