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Ewing M. Kauffman 1916-1993

DATE OF EVENT: Sunday, Aug. 1, 1993

DATE PUBLISHED: Monday, Aug. 2, 1993, in The Kansas City Star

Editor’s note: The death of philanthropist Ewing Marion Kauffman saddened thousands of Kansas City residents. It also raised questions about the future of the Royals. Only a few months before his death, Kauffman had basically given the team to Kansas City, preserving his baseball legacy.

Ewing Marion Kauffman, who was born humble on a farm but became a noble philanthropist and Kansas City’s most accomplished businessman, died Sunday. He was 76.

Kauffman created the former Marion Laboratories Inc., which gave jobs to thousands and where his share-the-wealth philosophy created 300 Kansas City millionaires. He founded and nursed the Kansas City Royals baseball team, which ensured that the city kept its major-league status. And he left about $1 billion of his wealth in a foundation that aims to improve the lives of underprivileged youths for decades to come. …

When the Kansas City Athletics baseball team moved to Oakland, Calif., after the 1967 season and it appeared that Kansas City would not get a major-league expansion franchise, the Kauffmans stepped forward and bought a franchise. The Kansas City Royals and the Kauffmans became area sports heroes.

In 1976, Kauffman revealed that he had had second thoughts about owning a major-league team.

“If I had it to do over again,” he said at the time, “I would have used the money more wisely. There is so much Mrs. Kauffman and I could do in the Kansas City area in the health-care field. For all of the millions we have spent on the Royals, we could have put in a complete coronary-care system. But I’ll never make that statement again if we get into the World Series.”

In 1980 the Royals did make it into the World Series but lost to the Philadelphia Phillies in six games. In 1985 the Royals won the Series, defeating the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games.

In 1981, when he was 65, Kauffman said he would like to sell half of the franchise and the rest later. …

Kauffman had to go out of town to find a buyer. Avron B. Fogelman, a real estate developer from Memphis, Tenn., eventually bought half of the Royals.

But when Fogelman’s real estate investments went sour, Kauffman was forced essentially to buy back Fogelman’s half of the team — at terms favorable to Fogelman — in January 1991.

“The Fogelman deal was a very unhappy deal,” Kauffman said in the May 5 interview. “I was trying to see that we had a good owner to follow me, because I didn’t know what the future of my health was going to be.” …

Unable to find a buyer for the Royals, Kauffman in April announced a unique plan in which he basically would give the Royals — perhaps worth more than $100 million — to the community. He also would give enough money to help pay for some of the team’s losses for at least three years.

Although Kauffman’s succession plan for the Royals has not received official approval, Kauffman’s death does not greatly complicate the plan, officials said. It can proceed without him …

By the 1980s, the philanthropic endeavors of Ewing and Muriel Kauffman started coming to the fore at an ever-faster clip …

In 1982, the Kauffmans were in the forefront to get a 911 emergency telephone system for the city.

In 1984, the Kauffmans unveiled “Project STAR,” a multimillion-dollar program aimed at preventing drug abuse. They made the commitment in the wake of cocaine possession charges then being filed against four Royals players.

In April 1988, Kauffman initiated “Project Choice,” perhaps his most startling program. He told 250 eighth-graders at Westport Middle School that he would pay their way through the college of their choice. All they had to do was stay out of trouble, avoid teen-age parenthood and graduate from high school. …

Finally, these programs, along with others, were folded into the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The foundation has about $800 million in Kauffman’s wealth already earmarked for it, and now it is expected to receive half the assets in Kauffman’s estate. That would push the foundation’s total assets to about $1 billion, by far the largest in Kansas City.

Editor’s note: An accompanying story speculated about the future of the Royals.

Ewing M. Kauffman’s death should not complicate his plan for the future of the Kansas City Royals, or, for that matter, the way the Royals operate in the meantime. But risks to the Royals long-term future in Kansas City remain.

Here are the highlights:

Michael E. Herman, Kauffman’s financial adviser, and Kauffman’s wife, Muriel M. Kauffman, essentially become co-trustees of the baseball team. Herman becomes the Royals’ official representative at baseball meetings.

As co-trustees, they inherit the legal ability to carry on Kauffman’s succession plan for the Royals, which calls for giving the team to the community while a permanent owner is sought. But if the fragile succession plan fails to gain government approval or hits some other insurmountable problem, Herman and Mrs. Kauffman would be obliged to give the Royals to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

The foundation, by law, would have to sell the team fairly quickly to the highest bidder, even if that was an out-of-town buyer.