Everything You Wanted to Know About Ziff Family Philanthropy

They're not the Waltons. Or the Buffetts. Or the Mars family. But the Ziffs are well worth keeping an eye on, with multiple foundations, varied interests, and a long philanthropic track record stretching back over two decades. Oh, and one other thing: They've barely scratched the surface when it comes to giving away a family fortune that stands at over $15 billion.

Your first question: Who are the Ziffs?

Born in 1930, William Bernard Ziff Jr. took over his father's publishing business and later bought out his father's business partner's stake in the company. Under new leadership, Ziff Davis Inc. shifted gears to niche consumer magazines that were growing in popularity in the 1970s, making a killing from magazines like Car and Driver and PC Magazine.

With his first wife, Ziff had three sons, Dirk, Robert and Daniel, heirs-apparent to the Ziff fortune. Ziff and his brothers decided instead to venture out on their own and formed Ziff Brothers Investments (ZBI). And while the brothers recently announced that they were winding down their hedge fund business, each is now worth about $4.8 billion.

The thing to know about the brothers is that they're all still relatively young. Oldest brother Dirk is only 50, but nonetheless, they have all been engaged in philanthropy for quite some time. 

Below is a quick rundown of family members, along with links out to other IP resources. 

The Older Brother

In 2000, Dirk Ziff established the Dirk E. Ziff Foundation, now known as the Natasha and Dirk Ziff Foundation, which Ziff runs with his wife Natasha. The foundation is relatively small, with around $5.5 million in assets and a little over $1 million in annual grants as of the end of 2012 and focuses its grantmaking on education, the environment, media/film and human services. Ziff has been a longtime supporter of Lincoln Center and since 1999, has given the center more than $3 million. 

Ziff and his wife Natasha vacation in Martha's Vineyard and there's another significant stream of money funneling through a few preferred Massachusetts-based organizations, especially film-based organizations. Natasha serves on the advisory board of the Martha's Vineyard Festival, which received $500,000 over a 5-year period from the foundation.

The Younger Brothers

Robert and Daniel Ziff set up family foundations of their own around the same time as their brother. Generally, these foundations have followed a similar grantmaking path as Dirk Ziff's foundation and have given to similar organizations. Differences between the brothers often have to do with their wives. Consider Daniel Ziff, who is married to Leslie Ziff. Leslie received her BFA in dance and sits on the boards of American Ballet Theatre and Rosie's Theater Kids. Unsurprisingly, both outfits have received a steady stream of money from the foundation over the years. American Ballet Theater received just over $1 million in 2012.

Robert, whose foundation held the most assets of the Ziff brothers at the end of 2012 with around $8.4 million, has given big to higher education. He played intramural hockey when he was at Harvard and created an endowment for his alma mater's hockey program in 1995. Since, he's been giving a steady stream of money to the school, with gifts ranging from $25,000 up to $1 million.

The Bill and Ann Ziff Foundation

Meanwhile, the largest Ziff family foundation is actually one associated with the family patriarach, William Ziff Jr.

Ziff passed away in 2006, but a foundation was set up in his name a year later and has been helmed by his second wife Tamsen Ann Ziff. The Bill and Ann Ziff Foundation held $34.5 million in assets as of the end of 2013 and gave away around $5.5 million last year year. Ann Ziff is on the board of many New York City cultural institutions, including chairman of the board at the Metropolitan Opera. Ann's mother was a famous opera singer who got her American start at the MET Opera.

The Bill and Ann Ziff Foundation has been a steady funder of the opera over the years, and in 2010, gave a record-breaking $30 million unrestricted gift to the opera.

Follow Ann Ziff's board memberships and you'll find other foundation grants to Carnegie Hall, Sing For Hope and, outside of arts and music, the American Museum of Natural History. Ann Ziff also recently joined the board at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Looking Forward

Outside of New York, the Ziff family owns multiple homes in Aspen, where all three brothers and Ann Ziff have given out grants, mainly to environmental, education, and arts organizations. The family also frequents Southern Florida where the Bill and Ann Ziff Foundation has given some sizable grants to conservation outfits like Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, a large botanic garden outside of Miami that holds rare tropical plants.

As the Ziff brothers wind down their hedge fund, we expect to see them step up their philanthropy. Clearly, this family has a strong interest in giving, but for all their philanthropic involvements, they're likely just getting started with their giving.