Heiress giving away 25 million-euros wants ‘citizen group’ to decide who gets it

FILE - Marlene Engelhorn, recorded at the Republica festival. (Monika Skolimowska/picture alliance via Getty Images)

An Austrian heiress wants to give away 25 million euros, which roughly translates to 27 million U.S. dollars. 

Marlene Engelhorn, 31, recently inherited the money from her late grandmother who died in 2022, the BBC reported. 

However, Engelhorn shared that she has already amassed a great deal of wealth due to her family and wants to redistribute the money back to society. 

"My wealth was accumulated before I was even born. It was accumulated because other people did the work, but my family was able to inherit the ownership of an enterprise and thus all claims to the fruits of its labour," Engelhorn said in a mission statement on the Good Council for Redistribution website. 

The Good Council for Redistribution is Engelhorn’s initiative to allow 50 people to vote on what happens to her fortune. 

Approximately 10,000 invitations were sent out to Austrian citizens on Jan. 9 and for those who wish to participate in the vote, they must register and participate in a short survey. 

The survey will ask things such as address, age, origin, etc., the website said. 

Engelhorn explained that the reason she isn’t simply donating the money to a cause of her choosing is because she felt whatever happens to such a large sum of money should be decided by a large group of people. 

"Redistribution must be a process that extends beyond me. Why should I alone be entitled to decide how wealth is redistributed to society - wealth, that has been created by said society? What happens to a large fortune should also be decided collectively by a large group. Not one person alone," she said. 

What’s in it for the 50 people? 

The people who participate in the redistribution decision will remain anonymous unless they wish to appear publicly and make a statement on their own, the website said. 

The 50 people who are chosen will receive 1,200 euros every weekend they dedicate their time to participate. 

The Good Council will also cover all travel costs, meals, accommodations and other expenses such as child care. 

Who qualifies? 

Participants must be at least 16 years or older and must be a registered resident of Austria. 

The chosen 50 do not have to be Austrian citizens or speak German, and they do not have to be familiar with taxes or how the redistribution system works. 

Good Council will provide interpreters and experts to assist with the decision-making. 

How long and where will the meetings take place? 

Once the final 50 people are chosen, they will meet on six weekends beginning in March through June in Salzburg, Austria. 

"I am giving 50 people my trust and my fortune. And asking them for their good advice: How should we as a society deal with the unequal distribution? And: How should we redistribute 25 million euros accordingly? A good plan needs many perspectives. Not just from one individual who happens to have inherited. Simply because I wish to improve the state of our society does not mean that I have a good plan," Engelhorn said. 

This story was reported from Los Angeles.