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Oppenheimer’s Will Leaves Bulk of Fortune in Trust

Oct 23, 2000 1:07 PM  
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(Rapaport…October 23, 2000) Harry Oppenheimer, the former head of mining conglomerates De Beers and AngloAmerican died leaving little trace of his vast personal fortune. Reputed to be one of the ten richest men in the world, with an estate worth more than $4.3 billion, Oppenheimer left a will declaring his personal wealth at $43.5 million, a fraction of his real net worth.

According to Business Day, Oppenheimer appears to have deposited a bulk of his fortune in a trust to protect his assets for the future benefit of his family. Most of the wealth declared in the will goes to his widow, Bridget, including his extensive art collection, a stud farm in Kimberley, all his racehorse enterprises, properties, stocks and cash.

In addition to leaving no clues as to the whereabouts of the missing billions, the will, which is still being finalized, makes no mention of son Nicholas, De Beers’ chairman; daughter Mary; his five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. All are expected to benefit from the money in the Harry Oppenheimer Family Trust.

Though trust funds are a legal way to minimize death taxes, The London Times says there are bound to be questions about the ethical implications of this move. Oppenheimer is one of South Africa’s richest individuals. This decision to protect his personal wealth could hurt in a country where millions of people live in poverty and the government does not have the resources to help them.

No one has ever been able to state how wealthy the Oppenheimer family is. The family company, E. Oppenheimer & Son, is known to hold a sizeable portfolio of investments in South Africa and abroad. The London Times quotes a Johannesburg analyst as saying that the family is estimated to be worth $4 billion -- and that is a conservative estimate.
Tags: De Beers, Government, South Africa
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