(Capital Research Center) It’s usually the case that no one knows who the great-grandchildren of a great philanthropist are. I know, for example, that there are people in their thirties named John D. Rockefeller V and Henry Ford III, but that’s the extent of my knowledge. I also know that the reason there aren’t any rich Vanderbilts today is because when the Great Depression hit in 1929, 90 percent of the family’s wealth was in New York Central Railroad stock, which plummeted by 90 percent during the Depression and never fully recovered.
The Rockefeller family is the great exception to this rule. David Rockefeller has, at age 102, outlived his grandfather by five years. When he dies, the Museum of Modern Art will get a nine-figure donation, which will be the last significant donation from the Rockefeller family.
There are some philanthropic families, such as the Guggenheims and the MacArthurs, where the second generation creates substantial charities. The Rockefellers are the only philanthropists I know of where the third and fourth generations of the founder have created substantial nonprofits that bear the family name: the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Rockefeller Family Fund. (I wrote about these two organizations at length in a 2005 issue of Foundation Watch)
These two Rockefeller nonprofits have been in the news lately because they have loudly announced that they are divesting their endowments of the oil and gas wealth that made their organizations possible. The Rockefeller Family Fund has been in the center of a large battle between ExxonMobil and the attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts about whether or not ExxonMobil knew in the 1970s that burning oil caused climate change….