Paul Newman’s daughters are suing the late actor’s charitable foundation

Paul Newman donates a popcorn stand to New York City on November 15, 1984, for his “Newman’s Own Popcorn”, with proceeds going to charity.Richard Drew/Associated Press

A new lawsuit has revealed a deep rift between two of Paul Newman’s daughters and the late actor’s charitable foundation funded by profits from the Newman’s Own food and drink line.

The daughters, Susan Kendall Newman and Nell Newman, allege that the Newman’s Own Foundation improperly reduced its required contributions to their own charities from US$400,000 each per year to US$200,000 each.

They filed a lawsuit Tuesday in state court in Stamford, Conn., seeking $1.6 million in damages to be paid to their foundations for charitable donations.

The girls say their father, who started Newman’s Own Foundation three years before his death in 2008, allowed the foundation to use his name and likeness – but only on several conditions, including giving each of the two girls’ foundations US$400,000 per year.

Susan Kendall Newman, who lives in Oregon, and Nell Newman, from California, fear the foundation is laying the groundwork to completely block them from having a say in how some of the profits from Newman’s Own products are donated to charitable organizations. They also accused the foundation of “contradicting” their father’s wishes and intentions for years.

“No one should feel that the legacy of a deceased loved one is being dishonored by the way Newman’s Own Foundation ignored Paul Newman’s daughters,” said Andy Lee, a New York girls’ attorney, in a press release. .

“This lawsuit is not seeking personal compensation for Mr. Newman’s daughters, but simply seeks to hold [Newman’s Own Foundation] accountable to the charities they have harmed over the past few years and would ensure that they receive an increased level of support in the future, in line with Mr. Newman’s wishes,” he said.

The Newman’s Own Foundation has not yet filed a response to the lawsuit but released a statement.

“Best practices surrounding philanthropic organizations do not permit the establishment of perpetual funding allocations for anyone, including Nell and Susan Newman,” the statement said. “A baseless lawsuit based on this mistaken wish would only divert money from those benefiting from Paul Newman’s generosity.”

Susan Newman, left, and Nell Newman arrive at the SeriousFun Children’s Network event at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles on May 14, 2015.Chris Pizzello/Associated Press

The foundation added: “While we plan to continue to seek recommendations from the Newman family for worthy organizations, our funding decisions are made annually and will continue to reflect Paul Newman’s clear purpose and our responsibility to the best practices governing private foundations.

Paul Newman, who lived in Westport, Connecticut, with his wife, actress Joanne Woodward, started the Newman’s Own brand in 1982, with all proceeds going to charity. Today, the product line includes frozen pizza, salsa, salad dressings and pasta sauces, as well as dog food and pet treats.

In his will, Paul Newman bequeathed his estate to his wife and to Newman’s Own Foundation.

Newman’s Own, the product company, is a subsidiary of Newman’s Own Foundation, a non-profit organization. The foundation says more than US$570 million has been donated to thousands of charities since 1982.

According to 2020 tax records, the foundation had more than $24 million in revenue and paid out US$11.5 million in contributions, donations and grants. Operating and administrative expenses totaled nearly US$4.5 million.

According to her daughters’ lawsuit, the Newman’s Own Foundation wrote to them just four days after their father’s death, saying it would reserve the right to stop allocating funds to charities identified by the girls. The lawsuit says this contradicts Paul Newman’s explicit instructions to the foundation.

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