Awaiting $9-Billion, the Cargill Philanthropies Prepare to Grow Big
By Ben Gose
Margaret A. Cargill was a
deeply private but fun-loving
woman who enjoyed mixing in
unnoticed at dedications of new
buildings that she had helped
make possible through anonymous gifts. At the openings of
the National Museum of the
American Indian, in Washington, a humane society, and a
center for older adults near her
home outside San Diego, Ms.
Cargill was there mingling—
and keeping a secret.
“She was thrilled to come and
be incognito at events that were
pretty much done to honor her,”
says Cheryl Wilson, chief executive of St. Paul’s Senior Homes
& Services, in San Diego, whose
community-care center Ms. Cargill supported.
Ms. Cargill died in 2006, at
age 85. In death, as in life, her
philanthropy has remained under the radar—until now.
Ms. Cargill was an heir to
Cargill Inc., one of the world’s
largest privately held companies, and for years it was hard
for outsiders to estimate how
much her estate was worth.
But a complex deal announced last month involving
the agribusiness conglomerate
and Mosaic, a public company
that Cargill largely owns, will
allow the Margaret A. Cargill
Philanthropies to fully liquidate
its holdings in the next four to
five years. The deal shines a
clear light for the first time on
her estate’s considerable wealth,
which totals nearly $9-billion.
That sum will probably put
the combined Cargill philanthropies among the nation’s
three wealthiest foundations.
The size of the estate might
have surprised even Ms. Cargill. The value of Mosaic, a fast-growing fertilizer company, has
risen five-fold since her death.
“I think she would have been
amazed, and very, very pleased
to see all this money going to
make the world a better place,”
Ms. Wilson says.
A Boon in Funds
The estate will be split evenly between two funds under
the Cargill philanthropies umbrella: the Margaret A. Cargill
Foundation and the Anne Ray
Charitable Trust (named for
Ms. Cargill’s mother), according
to Sallie L. Gaines, a spokeswoman for the philanthropies.
Each will be worth more than
$4-billion, based on Mosaic’s
The Anne Ray trust will be a
huge boon for the seven charities designated by Ms. Cargill to receive payouts from it.
They range from giants like the
American Red Cross and the
Nature Conservancy to smaller
groups like the American Swedish Institute, in Minneapolis.
(See article, below.)
The public face of the philan-
thropies will be the Margaret
A. Cargill Foundation, which
will devote grants to at least six
causes, including arts and cul-
ture; the environment; and di-
saster relief, recovery, and pre-
vention. The foundation’s new
headquarters, in Eden Prai-
rie, Minn.—just a few suburbs
away from Cargill Inc.’s Wayza-
ta headquarters—is decorated
with pieces from Ms. Cargill’s
A third fund, the Akaloa Resource Foundation, holds $150-
million in assets, and was set
up in 1995 to benefit certain
Southern California charities
near Ms. Cargill’s home in La
Jolla, Calif. Akaloa will not receive additional money.
The announcement about the
size of the Cargill philanthropies may refocus national attention on the growth of foundations, a long-term trend that
lost some luster during the recession. According to the Foundation Center, more than 75,000
foundations existed at the end of
2008 (the latest year available),
up from fewer than 47,000 a decade earlier, and the assets held
by foundations rose by nearly
America’s 10 Wealthiest Foundations
Colors used: 1
Time: 5 pm
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation*
* Figures are for 2009.
Note: Unless otherwise noted, figures are for the year ending December 31, 2010
and are estimates.
7 Charities Stand Ready to Share Some
of Anne Ray Charitable Trust’s Expected Windfall
The Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies may eventually support hundreds of charities, but
few of them will feel the impact
as much as two little-known research centers in Minneapolis
and Santa Fe, N.M.
Ms. Cargill, an heir to the
Cargill agribusiness fortune
who died in 2006, left shares
in her family’s business worth
almost $9-billion to her philanthropies.
Half her estate—an amount
worth more than $4-billion—
belongs to the Anne Ray Charitable Trust, which can only
provide support to the seven
charities named in its founding
documents. The trust, named
after Ms. Cargill’s mother, will
greatly expand its grant making this year.
Four of the beneficiaries of the
trust are large and well known:
the American Red Cross, the
Nature Conservancy, the Pub-
lic Broadcasting Service, and
the YMCA of the USA. A fifth,
Berea College, in Kentucky, is
mid-sized, with an operating
budget of $38-million per year.
Curse or Blessing?
The value of the Anne Ray
trust is big news for each of the
seven beneficiaries. If the spending from the trust were spread
equally (which nobody expects),
each charity would get the same
level of support that a $600-mil-
lion endowment provides.
But the trust has the potential to be transformative—or,
worse, overwhelming—for the
two smallest beneficiaries, even
if they receive a relatively puny
share of the trust’s payouts.
“It sounds crazy to say, but
sometimes a huge infusion of
resources into an organization
that isn’t ready for it is more a
curse than a blessing,” says Phil
Buchanan, executive director of
the Center for Effective Philanthropy, in Cambridge, Mass.
Trust officials say pay-out decisions will vary each year, and
among charities. “The amounts
that will go to each will depend
on each organization’s plans,
and how those fit with our mission,” says Christine M. Morse,
the trust’s chief executive.
Many expect the biggest organizations to ultimately re-
Continued on Page 16
Margaret A. Cargill,
the agribusiness heiress
who died in 2006, kept
a low profile even as she
gave generously during her
life, says Cheryl Wilson,
a San Diego charity leader:
“She was thrilled to come
and be incognito at events
that were pretty much done
to honor her.”
Akaloa Resource Foundation: Supports local charities near the
late Ms. Cargill’s former home in La Jolla, Calif. The foundation,
which holds $150-million in assets, will not receive additional
money now that Ms. Cargill’s estate is being settled.
The Anne Ray Charitable Trust: Supports seven charities: the
American Red Cross, the American Swedish Institute, Berea
College, the Nature Conservancy, the Public Broadcasting Service, the School for Advanced Research, and the YMCA of the
USA. It is expected to receive more than $4-billion from the
settlement of Ms. Cargill’s estate.
The Margaret A. Cargill Foundation: Expects to step up grant
making to three causes this year and next, including arts and
culture, the environment, and disaster relief and recovery. It
hopes eventually to make grants to promote animal welfare,
care for older adults, and aid children and families. It is expected to receive more than $4-billion from the settlement of Ms.
50 percent over that period, to
Steve Gunderson, president
of the Council on Foundations,
says philanthropy is in a sweet
spot: Community funds have
helped to democratize it, and
mega-rich apostles like Warren
E. Buffett and Bill Gates and
have helped made it hip.
“It’s now cool and trendy to be
a philanthropist,” Mr. Gunder-
son says. “People think, ‘Even
though I don’t have $9-billion, I
have enough money to create a
donor-advised fund.’ ”
Now comes the hard part for
the Cargill philanthropies—
putting the billions backing the
three foundations, all of which
are expected to operate in per-
petuity, to good use.
That responsibility rests on
the shoulders of Christine M.
Morse, a former financial adviser to Ms. Cargill whom she
hand-picked to lead all three
philanthropies, and Paul G.
Busch, the only other trustee of
the Cargill philanthropies. Mr.
Busch, who serves as chief operating officer of both the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation and
Akaloa, is an accountant who
also advised Ms. Cargill.
“Everybody from Andrew
Carnegie to Warren Buffett has
noted that it’s easier to make
the money than to give it away
effectively,” says Phil Buchanan,
executive director of the Center
for Effective Philanthropy, in
Cambridge, Mass. “They’re not
going to figure out this out over-
night. It’s going to take some
careful thought and analysis.”
Following Her Passions
Ms. Cargill, the woman whose
generosity will trigger all that
brow-furrowing, was the granddaughter of William Cargill, the
company’s founder; her father
and brother were both senior executives at the company. She did
not work there, instead pursuing her passion for the arts, notably Native American and folk
art, according to an obituary on
her foundation’s Web site.
She also loved to camp, and
in later years took her RV to
scenic spots. She never married;
her closest companion was said
to be her poodle, Kari.
Ms. Cargill enjoyed living in
California in part because the
Cargill name is not well known
there. That desire for privacy
was also reflected in her philanthropy; she gave away more
than $200-million during her
life, most of it anonymously.
Well into her 70s, Ms. Cargill
drove around on her own, says
Mark Goldstein, president of
the San Diego Humane Society,
a charity that is supported by
the Akaloa fund.
“If people knew who she was,
that probably would have restricted her from doing that kind
of thing,” Dr. Goldstein says.
Mr. Cargill set up her philanthropies, in part, to provide sup-
Continued on Page 16