Two of Paul Newman’s daughters are suing the Newman’s Own Foundation, a philanthropic endeavor founded by their late father. In the suit, Newman’s daughters Susan Newman and Nell Newman allege those in charge of the foundation have ignored philanthropic endeavors and are not giving enough to charities.
Newman, an Academy Award-winning actor known for movies like “Cool Hand Luke” and “The Hustler,” also founded a food product company that used his name and likeness on items like salad dressing. Before he died in 2008 from lung cancer and leukemia, he created the Newman’s Own Foundation, which donates money to charities by selling products under his “Newman’s Own” brand.
Newman granted the foundation rights to his name, image and likeness – but not unconditionally. The one condition was that the foundation allocate $400,000 each year to each of his “Daughters’ Foundations.” His daughters say they were supposed to direct a portion of the donations each year.
“But mere days after his death, those Mr. Newman had entrusted with the stewardship of his legacy turned on him, made thinly-veiled threats of disinheritance to his daughters, and leveraged their control over his estate to set the stage for disenfranchisement of his family,” the suit reads.
The daughters allege Newman’s business manager, Brian Murphy, and his adviser, Robert Forrester, had a pattern of “ignoring, contradicting and/or disregarding Mr. Newman’s stated intentions and desires for his legacy.” They also allege Murphy and Forrester’s plans to disregard Newman’s wishes began prior to his death.
They claim Newman signed a “Written Consent of Sole Member,” that appointed Forrester and Murphy as the foundation’s second and third board members, just months before Newman’s death, when his memory was failing him due to his illness and treatment.
“This fateful decision gave the members (solely Forrester and Murphy after Mr. Newman’s impending death) the ability to appoint the NOF Board of Directors which, in turn, would have complete control over NOF’s affairs, including its charitable disbursements,” the suit reads.
Newman often stated that at least one or more of his daughters should always serve on the foundation’s board, but under Forrester and Murphy’s leadership, only one daughter served on the board for a period of time and with limited responsibilities and access, the suit alleges.
The daughters also say Newman’s will was changed about six months before his death, and Murphy and Forrester admitted that Newman did not remember the events of that day. “Mr. Newman’s wife and daughters were all shocked when his will was read to them because it was different in many important respects from what Mr. Newman and his advisors had explained to them and others many times over the years,” the suit reads.
In the suit, the daughters allege that in 2020, the foundation reduced the amount of money that they get to donate by half. “The writing on the wall is clear: this is a step towards Newman’s Own Foundation ultimately dismantling entirely one of the most important aspects of Mr. Newman’s plans for his philanthropic legacy by removing his family from the giving process altogether,” the suit reads.
They are now seeking $1.6 million in damages, which will be donated to charity, and a declaratory judgment that mandates the foundation to abide by Paul Newman’s wishes.
In a statement to CBS News, a spokesperson for the foundation called the lawsuit “meritless.”
“The Board’s philanthropic giving decisions vary each year and the importance of our mission requires us to make the best use of our finite resources,” the spokesperson said, adding that the private foundation, founded by Newman in 2005, “is governed by a board of directors that must adhere to regulations applicable to 501(c)(3) organizations.”
“Best practices surrounding philanthropic organizations do not allow for the establishment of perpetual funding allotments for anyone, including Nell and Susan Newman,” the spokesperson said. “A meritless lawsuit based on this faulty wish would only divert money away from those who benefit from Paul Newman’s generosity. While we expect to continue to solicit Newman family recommendations for worthy organizations, our funding decisions are made each year and will continue to reflect the clear aim of Paul Newman and our responsibility to the best practices governing private foundations.”
The Newman sisters’ attorney, Andy Lee, said in a statement to CBS News that “no one should have to feel that the legacy of a departed loved one is being dishonored.”
“This lawsuit does not seek personal compensation for Mr. Newman’s daughters, but simply seeks to hold NOF accountable to the charities they have shortchanged in recent years and would ensure they receive an increased level of support in the future, in line with Mr. Newman’s wishes,” Lee said.