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Austrian heiress lets fifty citizens decide who will get her €25-million fortune

Session: "Über Geld spricht man doch!“ /// Speaker: Marlene Engelhorn, Geraldine de Bastion
Session: "Über Geld spricht man doch!“ /// Speaker: Marlene Engelhorn, Geraldine de Bastion Copyright Jan Zappner/Jan Zappner/re:publica
Copyright Jan Zappner/Jan Zappner/re:publica
By Tamsin Paternoster
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Austrian-German heiress Marlene Engelhorn allowed fifty members of the public to donate her inheritance to various organisations, including a homeless aid charity and a nature conservation association.


Marlene Engelhorn has redistributed over 25 million euros of her inheritance to various organisations.

Among the 77 organisations who will receive the money, 300,000 will be donated to the Autonomous Austrian Women's Shelters. Nature restoration charity the Común Foundation will get 100,400 euros.

The Austrian Nature Conservation Association, homeless organisation Nuenerhaus, the left-wing think-tank The Momentum Institute and anti-neoliberal economic policy NGO Attac Austria will each receive over one million euros.

Other recipients include inclusive football clubs and organisations dedicated to affordable housing, women's rights and ending poverty in Austria.

The 31-year-old Austrian-German set up a group of 50 random citizens in Salzburg who deliberated over six weekends on how best to divide her fortune.

In deciding how she would give away her wealth Engelhorn sent out 10,000 invitations that landed in letterboxes across Austria. Those who were chosen to take part formed the Good Council for Redistribution.

Selected members were offered a series of lectures including from philosophers and economics professors to inspire their choices on who would ultimately get Engelhorn's fortune.

The project insists that- aside from addressing how to tackle the division of Engelhorn's money- it is ultimately about taking steps to answer questions of social and fiscal justice.

Engelhorn is the descendent of Friedrich Engelhorn, the founder of German pharmaceuticals founder BASF. The Engelhorn family previously owned the German pharmaceutical company Boehringer Mannheim. Forbes estimates the family's net worth to be $4.2 billion.

Inheritance tax was abolished in Austria in 2008, making it one of the few European countries that do not impose a tax on inherited family wealth.

Engelhorn has campaigned for years that the Austrian government should impose a tax on wealth such as her own, arguing that it was unfair she should receive the fortune despite having not worked for it.

In a mission statement published in January, Engelhorn said, "If the government does not ensure that wealth is redistributed in society, then we have to take action and make sure that the issue gets the attention it deserves."

Earlier this year, Engelhorn told German news agency DPA that she would still keep a portion of the money for herself in order to easily transition into a job.

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