April 18, 2011 5:50 AM
Details from Will Underscore Joe Flom's Charitable Nature
Posted by Nate Raymond
Preview from the May 2011 Issue of The American Lawyer
In life, Joseph Flom was known as an aggressive combatant in endless hostile takeover battles. In death, he is grace personified.
Flom, the last living name partner of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, died in February at age 87. His estate, estimated to be in the low nine figures, is still being sorted out. But the will filed in Manhattan Surrogate's Court reveals that most of his money is going to charity.
The biggest beneficiary is the Flom Family Foundation, which will get half of his estate or $50 million, whichever is less. The foundation previously made donations to the Innocence Project and the Southern Institute for Education and Research, among others.
Flom grew up poor and went to law school on the G.I. Bill. During his life, he gave millions to charity. "He felt a social responsibility," says his widow Judi. One inspiration was his client, Milton Petrie, a large stakeholder in Toys 'R' Us, who gave generously to cultural institutions in New York. Son Jason is also not surprised at the extent of the charitable donations: "From the time we were kids, he told us that he was planning to give his money to charity, and we should go out and make our own."
Other beneficiaries are Harvard Law School, which will get $2 million for a program dedicated to health law and bioethics; City College of New York, Flom's alma mater, which will get $500,000; the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, which will get $200,000; and Sing for Hope, which will get $100,000. Last summer, the organization decorated New York's streets with 60 pianos.
The Skadden Fellowship Foundation, the charitable arm of the firm that provides funding to law students looking to go into public interest work, will get $1 million or 1 percent of his estate, whichever is less. Flom was a founding trustee when the foundation was established in 1988.
The will also provides money to the Jewish Communal Fund; Flom's wife and children will choose the ultimate recipients. Millions are in the accounts, Judi says, adding that she's "felt like Santa Claus" giving it away.
The handiwork of Skadden is evident throughout the will. Trusts and estates partner Ronald Weiss oversaw the will's execution on February 9 at New York Presbyterian Hospital, where Flom had been undergoing treatment at the end of his life. Weiss, along with M&A partner Roger Aaron and Skadden managing director Earle Yaffa, are executors of the will. (The firm declined to comment for this story.)
Judi will get a $7.5 million bequest, which the will calls "more generous" than the $5 million required under their October 2008 prenup, on top of money from their marital trust.
At the time of his death, Skadden put out a statement that said that Joseph Flom "likely would have wanted to be remembered most for his philanthropic work." His will makes that point very clear.