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‘Silent philanthropist’ Margaret Cargill’s new foundation suddenly surfaces as Minnesota’s largest

March 15, 2010

A new and largely unknown charitable entity, the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, has sailed into the top spot as the state’s largest philanthropic foundation.

March 14, 2010
Dave Beal

A new and largely unknown charitable entity, the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, has sailed into the top spot as the state’s largest philanthropic foundation.

In its most recent annual report, filed late last year with the Internal Revenue Service, the foundation reported assets of $2.12 billion as of Dec. 31, 2008.

That makes it the 22nd largest foundation in the nation by assets, according to the latest ranking by the Foundation Center. The McKnight Foundation, which had been Minnesota’s largest, ranks 32nd with assets of $1.58 billion.

The new foundation was established at the request of the late Margaret A. Cargill, who died at age 85 on Aug. 1, 2006, at her home near San Diego. In 1865, her grandfather, William Cargill, founded the company that has become the present-day Cargill. She was one of Cargill’s largest stockholders.

She insisted that all of her gifts be anonymous during her lifetime. Hence, the foundation’s site dubs her “the silent philanthropist,” but she agreed that her gifts could be made public once she died.

Bill King, president of the Minnesota Council on Foundations, said it’s unprecedented for a Minnesota foundation to report such sizable assets so soon after its establishment.
King added that the foundation’s size surprised him. “We’re thrilled,” he said.

Still ramping up

The foundation is still getting organized. Spokesperson Sallie Gaines, who is a senior vice president at the Hill and Knowlton public relations firm in Chicago, said Margaret Cargill’s estate has not been settled yet.

Gaines said that at the time of Cargill’s death, attorneys for the estate said it could take up to five years for her estate to be closed. When that happens, foundation officials are expected to arrive at a more definitive number for the assets. Most of the foundation’s assets remain in the estate for now and overall, their value is about the same now as it was at the end of 2008, Gaines said.

Asked if the assets could rise after the estate work is completed, Gaines said she didn’t know.

Since at least mid-2009, the foundation has posted a flurry of job openings on the foundation council’s site. The latest of these postings, last Tuesday for an environmental program officer, described the foundation as an “exciting, fast-growing organization that will be relocating to Eden Prairie in the fall of 2010 to accommodate its growth.”

Last year, the foundation purchased a building in Eden Prairie that it plans to remodel to serve as its headquarters. Currently, the foundation has 17 employees and is located in Wayzata. Eventually, it will add “significantly more” employees, Gaines said.

The foundation’s 2008 annual report lists Christine Morse as its CEO and Paul Busch as its chief operating officer, and both as trustees. Morse is a certified financial planner who worked earlier for Waycrosse Inc., which manages assets for many Cargill shareholders. Gaines said Margaret Cargill asked Morse to start the foundation.

Full article available on MinnPost.