With the Billionaire Founder Gone, Where Will a Rental Car Fortune End Up?

When billionaire philanthropists pass away, it's good to pay close attention. That's because there is a always a chance that some portion of their fortune, or even the bulk of it, will go to a foundation that emerges as a major new grantmaker. We've seen this a few times in recent years, such as after fracking pioneer George Mitchell and NFL owner Ralph Wilson died, leaving greatly enlarged foundations that bear their names. 

The most recent billionaire to pass away was Enterprise Rent-A-Car’s nonagenarian founder, Jack Taylor, who died in July. Unlike some billionaires, Taylor didn’t cut a particularly flashy philanthropic profile, but his giving — and his fortune were both substantial. Worth nearly $6 billion by recent estimates, the rental car tycoon was very generous to institutions around his hometown, St. Louis, Missouri. Taylor founded the Enterprise Holdings Foundation (also known as the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Foundation) in 1982, and the company puts total giving by the family and foundation since then at more than $1 billion. 

So is a portion of the late Jack Taylor's fortune now destined for philanthropy, fueling expanded grantmaking that carries on his charitable vision? 

We don't know the answer to that question, but such a scenario seems unlikely. Taylor's fortune took the form of his stake in Enterprise, one of the larger privately held companies in the U.S. Liquidating such equity to give away the money would mean accepting more outside ownership of Enterprise, which the Taylor's family has always closely controlled; his son, Andy, now serves as executive chairman. 

This kind of situation is a reminder that the wealth of billionaires is often far less fungible than one might imagine. Few living tycoons like to dilute their ownership stakes, and heirs can be bound by legal agreements not to sell off their equity to outsiders (as in the case with Sumner Redstone's heirs, as we've discussed). Just because a billionaire leaves a huge pile of wealth behind doesn't mean that much of it will be deployed for philanthropy, even in the case of a guy like Jack Taylor, who was very generous in his lifetime. 

RelatedShari Redstone and Philanthropy: Why We Should Pay Attention

Meanwhile, as we wait and see what happens to Taylor's fortune, the Enterprise Holdings Foundation keeps making grants, and shows signs of stepping things up.  

This foundation channels employee giving, but it also makes major gifts and has a global reach. One recent effort involved a $1 million gift to the American Red Cross’ Annual Disaster Giving Program, with a portion earmarked for earthquake relief efforts in Nepal last year.

Before his death, a wish of Taylor’s was to expand Enterprise’s philanthropy around hunger. That’s why the foundation recently announced one of the largest anti-hunger donations ever: $60 million over six years. The campaign, appropriately named “Fill Your Tank,” also commemorates the sixty years since Taylor launched his business out of a St. Louis Cadillac dealership with a fleet numbering seven cars.

Despite its scope, the Fill Your Tank program continues the foundation’s program of employee-guided charity, to a certain degree. For six years, the program will annually distribute (1) $.2.5 million to Feeding America, (2) $1.5 million to Food Banks Canada, (3) $1 million to the Global Foodbanking Network, and (4) $5 million to local food-related charities in communities served by Enterprise. 

Jack Taylor’s daughter, Jo Ann Taylor Kindle, and granddaughter, Carolyn Kindle Betz, currently oversee foundation grantmaking.

In addition to hunger and disaster relief, the environment has been a staple of Enterprise giving for a while now. Considering the carbon impact of its core business, this makes some sense. For the company’s 50th anniversary, the foundation unveiled a plan to plant 50 million trees (a million a year over a half-century). This involves a $50 million partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and the Arbor Day Foundation.

While the Fill Your Tank campaign covers a lot of geographical territory, the Taylor family often gives locally. In another recent tree-related gift, Taylor dedicated $30 million to St. Louis’ Forest Park. Other local recipients include the University of Missouri, St. Louis University, and even the Archdiocese of St. Louis. On top of that, Jack Taylor’s son, Andy, along with his wife Barbara, recently gifted $21 million to the St. Louis Art Museum, following in the family patriarch’s footsteps.