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Oprah Winfrey's Charities Worth More Than $200 Million

Oprah Winfrey | 'Bobby' Award Nominations

Oprah's Charities Now Worth More Than $200 Million

With all the talk about the opening of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa this week, it’s kind of amazing to realize what her charities are now worth. It’s an astounding amount of money, with some interesting trivia, too.

According to GuideStar.org and federal tax filings, Winfrey runs three different charities: The Oprah Winfrey Foundation, Oprah Winfrey’s Angel Network and The Oprah Winfrey Operating Foundation.

The Angel Network, of course, is heavily promoted on Winfrey’s show for fans to help raise money for worthy causes.

In 2005, the Angel Network distributed more than $4 million to 40 organizations with a lot of emphasis on Africa, Winfrey’s chief interest.

They also sent $2 million to disaster relief for victims of Hurricane Katrina and the Indian Ocean tsunami. The Angel Network claimed $15 million in net assets in 2004-2005.

Oprah’s Operating Foundation, with $19 million in assets, is set up just for the recently opened Leadership Academy in South Africa.

But the real meat and potatoes of Oprah’s giving comes from her personal foundation. According to its most recent filing, the Oprah Winfrey Foundation has total assets of a whopping $172 million. Just last year, Winfrey parked some $36 million of her own money in the Foundation, which in turn distributed $8 million to numerous educational, arts and medical groups.

Some of them, like something called the U.S. Dream Academy, depends on Winfrey almost entirely for their funding (she gave them $1 million last year).

Winfrey gives a lot to African causes and groups, but also gives millions domestically. Jackson (Miss.) State University is one of her largest recipients, as is Morehouse College.

And while most of Winfrey’s interests are to help African Americans, she has a soft spot for rich white kids, too.

Winfrey, according to her filing, is in the middle of doling out a $1 million contribution to the ultra-WASPy, very, very exclusive Miss Porter’s, the famed finishing school in Farmington, Conn. She sent her nieces there in the early '90s, and has remained a steadfast supporter.

The large donation seems a little unusual given that it would seem, from the school’s quarterly online newsletter “Salamagundy,” that the racial makeup of the academy hasn’t changed much since the days when Jackie Kennedy or George Bush 41’s mother, Dorothy, were students.

Other graduates of Miss Porter’s include Vanderbilts, Rockefellers and billionaire heiresses like Dina Merrill and the late Barbara Hutton. The school has an $80 million endowment.

Likewise, Winfrey is in the middle of giving a similar chunk of change to the very prestigious and exclusive Lake Forest Academy, on the tony north shore of Chicago.

The alumni section of Lake Forest’s Web site shows 99 percent Caucasians, with an occasional black student thrown in. Winfrey must have a plan for these two schools. It should be great when it’s revealed.

In a story posted on Johannesburg’s Business Day, though, writer Cara Bouwer reported on Wednesday that Winfrey actually modeled her Leadership School on Miss Porter’s. The difference, Bouwer observed, was that tuition for Miss Porter’s is $38,000. The Leadership Academy’s annual per student bill is $32,000 rand, or $4,500, all paid by Winfrey.

And no matter the Lake Forest or Miss Porter’s donations, the rest of the Oprah Winfrey Foundation is so solid that I’m surprised she hasn’t been knighted, or given the President Medal of Freedom.

When you compare her charitable activity to Donald Trump, of which I wrote about last week ($750,000 a year), or to the empty promises of “charity singles” that come from Michael Jackson, Winfrey’s work is unparalleled and unprecedented. She’s put about $5 million into a Boys and Girls club in her Mississippi hometown, for example, and last year another $500,000 went to the Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation.

And for all our sakes, let’s hope Winfrey lives a long time. According to an amendment in her 2004 filing, Oprah is the sole member of the Foundation and is the only who has grant approval for those millions and millions of dollars.

But enjoy it while you can, charities, because a new line reads: “After the death of Oprah G. Winfrey, the Foundation shall have no members.”

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