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New tax filing reveals $156 million transfer from Johnny Carson estate to charitable foundation

Johnny Carson

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Johnny Carson Foundation

AUGUST 9--In an unprecedented act of celebrity philanthropy, the charitable foundation created by Johnny Carson has reported receiving $156 million from a personal trust established by the entertainer years prior to his January 2005 death, The Smoking Gun has learned.

The nine-figure transfer from the late entertainer’s estate was disclosed in a tax return filed three months ago by the John W. Carson Foundation, records show. The massive bequest leaves the Carson foundation with assets dwarfing the largest Hollywood charities--even the foundation run by entertainment titan David Geffen, whose organization listed assets of $80 million on its most recent tax return.

In a tax return received by the Internal Revenue Service in mid-May, the Carson foundation disclosed its receipt of $35.2 million in cash and $121.2 million in securities and royalty rights from the John W. Carson Trust. The IRS return, excerpted at left, covers the fiscal year ending last June.

Previous tax returns, including those filed when Carson was alive, show that his trust regularly provided funds to the foundation, which then used the money to give grants to a variety of organizations. But those prior transfers from the Carson trust, which was established in 1988, were usually between $1 and $2 million.

There has never been a public accounting of Carson’s estate, so there is no way of knowing its total value, beneficiaries, or what percentage the $156 million represents. The former “Tonight Show” host, who died of emphysema at age 79, was survived by his fourth wife, Alexis, and two sons from his first marriage.

The extremely private comedian did little to publicize his philanthropy, which included hefty donations to environmental groups, AIDS charities, schools, children’s aid organizations, and not-for-profits in Nebraska, where he grew up.

The group's latest tax return lists 67 separate donations totaling nearly $3 million. The filing also lists eight other contributions, totaling $5.7 million, that the foundation approved for future payment. These gifts include $4 million earmarked for the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, $100,000 for the Los Angeles Free Clinic, and $125,000 for a Planned Parenthood high school sex education initiative.

The Carson foundation is managed by lawyer Allan Alexander and Lawrence Witzer, an accountant with a Beverly Hills financial management firm. Both men are paid $90,000 annually for their part-time work with the organization. (3 pages)

Comments (15)

I believe that money should be left to animal shelters and rescue groups instead of leaving it to man.... somehow they always screw things up...
This is swell. People playing God and acting like they know what was in the heart of this 79 year old man when he died. Perhaps it is your own future destinations you should be concerned about and not judging everyone else. "Judge not,lest you be judged". Or how about,"Love One Another. "Yes, this is a high ground moral busline all right.
Chess also doesn't know what he/she is talking about! You need to read the story in Corinthians about the man who was fornicating with his stepmother. The church was indeed ordered to "judge" and to take steps to either bring him to repentance or excommunicate him in the hope he would wake up and repent. Love in the biblical sense means to bring one to the knowledge of God and Jesus. It doesn't mean look the other way if one is reprobate. You are the typical bible quoter who doesn't know God's word.
I applaud you one more time, sir. Standing Ovation. Hi Oh!!! Bombastic Bushkin must have been one helluva lawyer to keep it all away from your ex-wives.
Mr. Carson was full of insecurity and hate. Cross him once and your career was ruined. Ask Joan Rivers, Rich Little and countless others who felt his rath. Conman Carson led his fans to believe he had a heart of gold....BS. He knew Ed was in trouble years ago, what did he do ? Went out and bought a big ass boat to live on. He was always disliked in the Hollywood comunity, not shy just not invited! May he get back all the evil he spewed!
IrishEyesAreBlue seems to be unable to ascertain that Carson wasn't giving any money to promote Jesus or the angels. Why would they rejoice over him when he is probably in hell now, and will ultimately spend eternity in the lake of fire. Good guys don't go to heaven. Sinners who have accepted Jesus as their Savior are the ones who go! Carson was NOT a "great human being". He was an above average talent who got rich in the insane world of celebrity wages.
So... if I order one of those Best of Carson DVD's some of the money goes to greenies, and Planned Parenthood? Cancel that order! No wonder he kept this quiet while he was alive.
And poor Ed McMahon -- On August 14, 2008, real estate mogul Donald Trump announced that he would purchase McMahon's home from Countrywide Financial and lease it to McMahon, so the home would not be foreclosed. McMahon agreed instead to a deal with a private buyer for his hilltop home, said Howard Bragman, McMahon's former spokesman. Bragman declined to name the buyer or the selling price, but he said it is not Trump. "For Mr. Trump, this acquisition was not business-related, but, as he has stated, was meant to help out an American icon," said Michael Cohen, special counsel to Trump. "If another buyer should emerge who will create the benefit Mr. Trump sought for Ed McMahon, then he is clearly pleased." In early September, after the second buyer's offer fell through, Trump renewed his offer to purchase the home.
Those serious flaws aside (if they are true) some of the best idiotic box moments of my life where watching the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
@bellarush I've always been a big fan of Ed McMahon, as they'd say years ago, he was one hell of a swell guy, military hero and everything. So I was really glad to find out that Donald Trump had enough of a heart to ease Ed's financial woes, and I don't care if it's rich helping rich it's still really nice and makes me feel better about Mr. Trump because I've heard stories that he got rich screwing people over on real estate deals. I'm not happy to hear that Johnny Carson donated to Godless nonprofits like Planned Parenthood though --may God forgive him those transgressions.
m716, Are you referring to his two remaining children from his first marriage? They're in their 40s. They "should" be able to take care of themselves and not depend on an inheritance.
Johnny Carson was a great human being and he was shy about that. There are a lot like him around who do not boast about their kindness out of embarrassment . Most of them tend to hold conservative views I have noticed ,in my 60th year on this Planet living in three differant countries.
meanwhile his children are poor and barely scraping a living in LA's suburbs...Class Act? Not so much.
Giving money to grown children HURTS the kids, it does not help them.
Johnny Carson was a class act! He was the King of humor ... and his heart was kind. May he rest in Peace ... Jesus and the Angels rejoice!