Richard and Ellen Sandor

NET WORTH: Unknown

SOURCE OF WEALTH: American Financial Exchange, Environmental Financial Products

FUNDING AREAS: Environment & Science, Arts & Culture, Education & Youth, Jewish causes

OVERVIEW:  Richard Sandor and his wife Ellen conduct their philanthropy through the Richard & Ellen Sandor Family Foundation, which gave away a little under $2 million in a recent year. The Sandors support select environmental and science organizations. Another interest is the arts, particularly in the Chicago area. 

BACKGROUND: Richard Sandor received a B.A. from the City University of New York, Brooklyn College, and his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Minnesota. While on sabbatical from Berkeley in the 1970s, he served as vice president and chief economist of the Chicago Board of Trade. He was a senior financial markets executive with Kidder Peabody, Banque Indosuez, and Drexel Burnham Lambert. Sandor is chairman and CEO of the American Financial Exchange and CEO of Environmental Financial Products, which specializes in inventing, designing and developing new financial markets. 


ENVIRONMENT & SCIENCE: Sandor has been working at the intersection of finance and the environment for years. Along with Al Gore, he founded Chicago Climate Exchange, “the world's first and North America's only voluntary, legally binding greenhouse gas cap-and-trade system,” which was discontinued in 2011. Via their foundation, the Sandors have supported The Fresh Air Fund and Clean Energy Trust, which “invests in the entrepreneurs leading the clean technology revolution from the Midwest.” The Sandors have also supported Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and the Windward Fund, which provides a “platform for donors committed to building a stronger conservation movement to learn from each other.”

ARTS & CULTURE: The couple have been collectors of both photography and outsider art for decades. Ellen Sandor has an MFA in sculpture from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has taught at the school. One of the couple’s daughters, Julie, has a film and media background and has worked as a producer in Los Angeles. The Sandors have largely prioritized Chicago institutions like Joffrey Ballet, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Steppenwolf Theater, and Peggy Nortebaert Nature Museum. The family has supported outfits on the West Coast, including Palm Springs Art Museum and The Cinefamily.

EDUCATION & YOUTH: Grantees include The Art Institute of Chicago, University of Chicago (Sandor has been on the faculty of the law school), University of Oklahoma Foundation, Columbia College Chicago, Museum of New Mexico Foundation, University of Nebraska Foundation, and The Book Truck, a “literacy nonprofit that gives away free books to thousands of foster care and other underserved teens throughout Los Angeles.” Julie Sandor is president of Book Truck. 

JEWISH CAUSES: The Sandors have also supported Jewish organizations including Friends of Ir David, Chicago Sinai Congregation, and Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago.

LOOKING FORWARD:  The Sandors' daughters and son-in-law are also on the books of the foundation and appear to influence the family’s philanthropy. While Chicago is a strong focus, other parts of the country where the family has ties, such as Los Angeles, may receive stronger attention in the coming years.


The Richard & Ellen Sandor Family Foundation does not provide a clear avenue of contact, but below is an address:

Richard & Ellen Sandor Family Foundation
400 N. Michigan Ave., Ste. 1100
Chicago, IL 60611