Billionaire heiress says she won’t reject family fortune


The dream of seeing a billionaire refusing to receive an inheritance was short-lived. Contrary to what was announced in August, Marlene Engelhorn, 29, heiress to the German company BASF, never said she would give up that money.

“Spanish and Italian media have spread a lot of false statements in recent weeks,” he told Sheet Lorena Sendic Silvera, director of the NGO Tax Me Now, created by Engelhorn last year to fight for higher taxes for the wealthy.

Headlines like “Young man rejects €4 billion inheritance. Why?” or “The heiress who rejected €4 billion: ‘I don’t want to be rich'”, which toured the world in early August, have another inaccuracy. Engelhorn says his inheritance is a double-digit million-euro value, meaning anything between €10m and €99m.

According to Silvera, Engelhorn cannot give interviews right now because of his busy schedule. But she eventually spoke to a newspaper about the matter, the Spanish daily Ara, which publishes news mostly in Catalan.

“I will inherit a double-digit million euros and I will not refuse,” said the young Austrian. “I would like to be able to redistribute at least 90%, if possible through fees. If not, I will find another way.”

She explained that when she saw those headlines with her name she didn’t understand anything. Literally, as she doesn’t speak Italian or Spanish. She read everything through Google Translate and did not understand where the news came from with false statements attributed to her.

Marlene Engelhorn is a descendant of Friedrich Engelhorn, a German who in 1865 founded the chemical company Basf (the name means Badense Factory of Sodium Bicarbonate and Aniline). Today the fortune is in the hands of Marlene’s grandmother, named Traudl Engelhorn. It is Traudl who ranks 687th on the Forbes richest list, with €4.2 billion.

After Traudl’s death, the money will be split between several family members, leaving Marlene the announced double digits of millions. She says she learned this at a family gathering. “I knew I was rich, but then I got angry and I didn’t understand why. I wanted to talk about it and at the same time I wanted to hide it from people. I didn’t want that money, it didn’t seem fair to me.”

“I grew up in a huge mansion,” she says, who felt like a horse with blinders, the accessory you put on an animal’s head to limit its vision and force it to look straight ahead.

“Privileges are just like that; you don’t see how much you have.” Seeking to escape this limited vision, the girl decided to study German literature at a university. That’s when she came into contact with people outside her circle and understood that the way she was raised, as well as her family’s money, was far from normal.

Then, in February 2021, she became an activist by signing an open letter, alongside 60 other uncomfortable millionaires, against the low taxation of her fortune. On the Tax Me Now website, she explains that in Germany the richest 10% own 62% of the country’s assets, while the poorest 50% own only 3.4%. In Austria, 1% of the population owns 40% of the wealth.

“When you’re super rich it’s because you were born that way, and it’s usually dirty money. No fortune is clean”, he believes. Engelhorn may be referring to the fact that BASF, like most large German companies, had associated itself with Nazism and benefited from crimes against humanity. After World War II (1939-1945), the conglomerate of which BASF was a part at the time had 13 executives sentenced to 1 and 8 years in prison by the Nuremberg court.

In the end, Engelhorn admits that it would be nice if it were true about the €4bn inheritance. But only because, if it did, it could redistribute much more wealth.

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