The Lenfest Foundation, one of the region’s last remaining powerhouse philanthropies, has undertaken a series of changes that will dramatically alter its leadership and mission, and effectively maps out a path to its end.
H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest has long said the foundation he and his wife, Marguerite, founded would spend itself down and cease to exist within 10 years of their deaths. But Lenfest, 82, has decided to step down now as chairman. Philadelphia entrepreneur Keith Leaphart, 38, will complete Lenfest’s term as chairman through June 2015, heading a new eight-member board on which the Lenfests will remain members.
“We’ve decided to put the foundation into an independent board of directors, which I no longer control,” Lenfest said. “I’m not in ill health. I don’t believe in perpetual foundations. We’ve given away the bulk of our wealth already, and I will have a diminished role in the future. My success in business was finding people who were better at doing things than I was. It’s a logical evolution.”
Since 2000, the Lenfests have given away slightly more than $1 billion through the foundation and personally, a foundation official said.