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Cox chairman seeks end of trust for billionaire aunt

The chairman of Cox Enterprises Inc., owner the third-largest U.S. cable operator, asked a judge to dissolve a 1941 trust for Anne Cox Chambers, his billionaire aunt, to free the money for relatives and charities.

The trust, started by Chambers’ father, Ohio Gov. James M. Cox, the Democratic presidential nominee in 1920, holds almost 175 million shares in closely held Cox Enterprises, according to a filing last week in state court in Atlanta by James Cox Kennedy, the company chairman.

Cox publishes the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and runs dozens of TV and radio stations through its Cox Communications unit. The proposal would give about 8 million shares to charities, with the rest distributed to the family.

“The filing is related solely to the Cox family’s goal of maintaining family ownership and control of Cox Enterprises,” a company spokesman, Bob Jimenez, said by email.

Chambers, 93, owns 49 percent of Cox Enterprises, making her the Atlanta-based company’s largest shareholder. She has an estimated net worth of $8.1 billion and is the world’s 147th richest person, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Chambers “has no further need of financial support from the trust, as evidenced by her decision to give away 100 percent of her income interest in the trust to charities,” according to the filing.

The proposal has been agreed upon by all of the parties involved and isn’t a legal dispute, Kennedy’s lawyer, James Spratt, said in a phone interview. The petition was filed in court because the terms of the 72-year-old trust say only a judge can dissolve it.

Family’s goal

Under the terms of the trust, the contract will be dissolved when Chambers dies. The family wants to break the trust sooner since she and her descendants no longer need it, according to the petition.

“Governor Cox’s intent to have the trust support Mrs. Chambers financially during her life has already been fulfilled,” according to the filing.

Chambers gives her income from the trust to 32 charities.

Proceeds from dissolving the contract would be split among her descendants, as well as organizations including the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, the Atlanta Botanical Garden, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, according to the filing.

Atlanta charities

Other charities that stand to benefit are the Atlanta Humane Society, the Atlanta Historical Society, Bard College and Emory University, Kennedy said in the petition.

Chambers’ descendants transferred portions of their interests in the trust to Cox Enterprises through Georgia state courts on several occasions from 1987 to 2009, giving the company about a 25 percent stake in the trust’s remaining interest, according to the filing.

The trust holds shares in the Atlanta Journal Co., a predecessor to Cox Enterprises, the filing said.

James Cox founded Cox Enterprises when he bought the Dayton Evening News of Ohio in 1898. His son, James Jr., bought radio and television stations.

In the 1960s, Cox became one of the first companies to invest in cable TV, buying systems in Pennsylvania, California and Oregon, according to Hoover’s Inc.

 

With assistance from Edmund Lee and Nicholas Turner in New York and Anita Sharpe in Atlanta