Two of Paul Newman’s daughters are suing his charitable foundation, which they allege is dishonoring his dying wishes and pushing them out of decisions about how the proceeds of his business are donated.
Newman’s daughters Nell, 63, and Susan, 69, filed a lawsuit against Newman’s Own Foundation, the charitable organization through which the profits of Newman’s Own Inc. are funneled and which divides them up to give to various charities.
Newman created the foundation in 2005 as a way of safeguarding his vision to donate all of the proceeds from sales of his salad dressings and other food products to causes he held dear. The actor died in 2008 after a battle with lung cancer.
According to a lawsuit filed this week, one of his dying wishes was for each of his five daughters to receive $400,000 a year from the foundation.
They were not to enjoy the money themselves, but rather divide it up between charities of their own choosing.
But the board has now slashed those payments in half – giving the daughters $200.00 each – and threatening to cut it off entirely if they wish, according to the lawsuit.
An attorney for Nell and Susan tells DailyMail.com that they now fear they are being pushed out entirely of their father’s legacy.
They feel like outsiders in their own father’s legacy when all they want to do is protect and defend his wishes.
‘This isn’t about them trying to gain any compensation for themselves and it’s not about fame. This could happen to any family.
Susan Newman, 69, (center) and Elinor ‘Nell’ Newman, 63, (right) filed the lawsuit against Newman’s Own Foundation, the charity that their father founded in 2005, three years before his death. They are photographed with their sister Clea (left) in 2015
The late actor Paul Newman is shown in 2007, 18 months before his death. He formed the foundation in 2005 as a way of safeguarding his charitable vision, his daughters say
The foundation takes the profits from the sales of Newman’s Own products and donates them to charity. Newman’s vision was for 100% of the proceeds to go to charitable causes
‘Nell and Susan can’t say for certain why the board made this decision, but it appears to be part of a long pattern of disregarding Paul’s wishes that sets the stage for complete exclusion of Paul Newman’s family from his legacy, which they will not allow without a fight,’ said Andy Lee of Foley & Lardner LLP.
In the months before his death, Newman entrusted long-time advisors Robert Forrester and Brian Murphy with executing his will and running the foundation.
But the lawsuit states that ‘mere days’ after his death, Forrester changed the rules of the foundation and threatened the daughters’ inheritance.
“They leveraged their control over his estate to set the stage for disenfranchisement of his family,” the lawsuit claims.
Part of their complaint is that the foundation has slashed the $400,000-a-year charitable payments in half.
All five of Newman’s surviving children were due to receive the annual $400,000 with the intention that they would pass it on to their own chosen causes.
Claire, or Clea as she is known, decided to opt out, leaving Nell, Susan and their sisters Melissa and Stephanie to receive the scholarships.
Melissa and Stephanie are not involved in the lawsuit against the organization.
It remains unexplained just why the board of directors sought to push the sisters out, as they claim, or why it changed the rules.
In a statement to DailyMail.com, the board said it was adhering to ‘best practices’ of charitable organizations despite what the actor said he wanted for his family.
The board of directors at Newman’s Own Foundation. The sisters say their father’s legacy is ‘under assault’ from the board, which has strayed from his vision and is pushing them out of the organization
Newman had six children from two marriages. Above, he is shown with daughter Nell and his second wife Joanne Woodward, in 2003
Newman is shown donating his popcorn on the streets of New York in 1984. He started the range of products in the 1980s after gifting salad dressing to friends who loved it and demanded more
Newman with his wife Joanne Woodward in 1989 at a book party in New York City where they served guests their famous lemonade
‘A cornerstone of Mr. Newman’s convictions were his philanthropic legacy living on through his family.
Over the years, however, Newman’s Own Foundation lost its way and strayed from its mission to preserve and honor Paul Newman’s legacy.
‘The years since Mr. Newman’s death consisted of a long and consistent pattern of disregard, by those in control, of Mr. Newman’s specific intentions and direction, coupled with mismanagement, scandal, and questionable practices,’ the lawsuit reads.
Newman, the legendary Hollywood icon, started making salad dressing in 1980 to give to friends as gifts.
In 1982, he launched Newman’s Own as a business, and it made $300,000 in its first year through salad dressing sales.
He declared that he wanted to ‘give it all away’. By 1992, the business raised $50 million for charities.
In 2005, Newman founded the Newman’s Own Foundation to ensure that the proceeds of sales would always go towards philanthropic causes, after his death.
Newman died in 2008. His daughters claim in their lawsuit that three months before, he amended his will to strip some of the clauses of the foundation, but that he wasn’t in his right mind when he did so.
It stripped the foundation of the obligation to give the sisters the $400,000-a-year Newman had previously promised them.
In 2020, the foundation halved that amount to $200,000.
Paul Newman had six children from his two marriages. Above, Clea Newman with mother Joanne Woodward, half-sister Susan and her sister Melissa in 2009, a year after their father’s death from cancer
In 1993, Nell convinced her father to launch a spin-off range of organic foods known as Newman’s Own Organics. She served as the company’s president for years
Foundation CEO Miriam Nelson also recently announced that the charity was changing its vision to focus only on children.
‘We believe that if Paul Newman were still with us today, he would embrace our focus on children,’ she said in an announcement.
The board of directors defended its actions and said the lawsuit is ‘meritless’.
They insist that they are merely following the law surrounding charities.
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. Paul Newman established the Newman’s Own Foundation as a private foundation in 2005. The Foundation 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.
A meritless lawsuit based on this faulty wish would only divert money away from those who benefited 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,’ a spokesperson told DailyMail. com.
Newman had six children from two marriages before his death. His son Scott died at the age of 28 in 1978 from a drug overdose.
He had two daughters with his first wife, Jackie Witte, and three daughters with his second wife, Joanne Woodward.
None of the other children are involved in the lawsuit, and it is unclear whether Newman also gave them stipends from the charity to give to their own causes. The actor was 83 when he died in 2008 after a battle with lung cancer.