Late film star Paul Newman’s lasting charitable legacy is now under fire.
Newman’s daughters Elinor “Nell” Newman and Susan Newman filed a lawsuit against nonprofit Newman’s Own Foundation, claiming that their father’s wishes are “under assault” by the “very organization he founded in an effort to preserve and expand that legacy,” as reported by The Independent.
Newman created Newman’s Own Foundation in 2005, three years before he died of lung cancer in 2008. The legendary “Cool Hand Luke” actor founded the private non-profit that controls the food company of the same name and sends 100 percent of its after-tax profits to charity. A clause in the foundation stated that Newman’s children would receive money to also be redirected to charities of their choosing.
Now, Elinor and Susan allege Newman’s Own’s board of directors have decreased the funds available to charity donations. According to the lawsuit, Newman asked that $400,000 be delivered to his “Daughter’s Foundations” as an essential “check on Newman’s Own Foundation’s ability.”
“Mr. Newman granted to Newman’s Own Foundation the rights to his name, image, and likeness and other publicity and intellectual property rights, but not unconditionally,” the lawsuit stated, as filed in Connecticut courts. “Instead, Mr. Newman made that grant on the condition that Newman’s Own Foundation allocate $400,000 each year to each of his ‘Daughters’ Foundations,’ for them to donate to charities identified by his daughters pursuant to specific rules that he established.”
In recent years, per the suit, Newman’s Own has “lost its way and strayed from its mission to preserve and honor Paul Newman’s legacy.” The $400,000 has dwindled to $200,000. Elinor and Susan are seeking damages of $1.6 million to be donated to charities of their choosing, as per their father’s wishes.
The claim reads, “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.”
In addition to damages, the suit is also seeking a judgment that will require Newman’s Own Foundation “to comply with Paul Newman’s instructions now and in the future” moving forward.
“No one should have to feel that the legacy of a departed loved one is being dishonored in the way that Newman’s Own Foundation has disregarded the daughters of Paul Newman, who are the plaintiffs in this case,” attorney Andy Lee said in a statement on his clients’ behalf.
A spokesperson for Newman’s Own Foundation called the lawsuit “meritless” while noting that the board of directors’ decisions can “vary each year” especially when deciding how to “make the best use of our finite resources.”
“Best practices surrounding philanthropic organizations do not allow for the establishment of perpetual funding allotments for anyone, including Nell and Susan Newman,” the spokesperson stated. “A meritless lawsuit based on this faulty wish would only divert money away from those who benefit from Paul Newman’s generosity. While we expect to continue to solicit Newman family recommendations for worthy organizations, our funding decisions are made each year and will continue to reflect the clear aim of Paul Newman and our responsibility to the best practices governing private foundations.”
Per the Newman’s Own Foundation website, the nonprofit donates to “thousands of charities around the world,” totaling more than $500 million over the years.