The Kennedy Legacy

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How The $1 Billion Kennedy Family Fortune Defies Death And Taxes


If America had an aristocracy, the most titled bloodline would certainly be the Kennedys. In the past half century, one Kennedy after another has occupied nearly every political position America has to offer, including the roles of congressman, senator, ambassador, mayor, SEC chairman, state representative, city councilman, and, of course, President.

The sustaining force behind the Kennedys reign is hardly a secret. Thanks to Joseph P. Kennedy, who made a fortune from insider trading only to later chair the SEC, the family is fabulously rich. But exactly how much is America’s first family worth? Forbespegs the extended family’s fortune at $1 billion.

Protected by a labyrinth of trusts, as well as tax strategies that would make Joseph P. Kennedy proud, the Kennedy fortune now spans approximately 30 family members, and includes the surnames Shriver, Lawford and the Smith. At nearly $175 million as of 2013, Caroline Kennedy is the richest descendant by far, but more modestly endowed relatives, such as Robert Shriver, who is running for Los Angeles County Supervisor, still possess assets in the tens of millions, according to public financial disclosures required of government officials.  

The bulk of the family’s wealth is held in dozens of trusts, which range in value from tens of thousands to as much as $25 million. Nearly all are managed by Joseph P. Kennedy Enterprises, a family office located in New York City with assets dating back to 1927, according to Christopher Kennedy, a member of the Kennedy family who sits on the office’s board.

Unlike the office’s heyday under JFK’s confidant Stephen Smith, when “there was actually stock picking going on inside the office walls,” the task of investing the family trusts today is handled by outside organizations, Kennedy said. While the family has a final say in where the assets are allocated, day-to-day oversight has been tasked to an advisory board of six experts, including Andy Golden, who manages Princeton University’s endowment.

Joseph P. Kennedy’s choice to place his fortune in trusts is possibly the single most critical reason why the family wealth is still around today. The most obvious benefit was to protect the fortune from the prying fingers of ne’er-do-well heirs, said Laurence Leamer, who wrote three Kennedy biographies. Trusts often prevent beneficiaries from tapping more than 10 percent of principal, said Rick Kruse, principal at Kruse and Crawford, which offers estate management advice.

The trusts also protect the family assets from another set of prying fingers: Uncle Sam’s. By holding assets in so called “dynasty trusts,” which are passed from heir to heir for decades, if not longer, the Kennedy family fortune is largely insulated from the estate tax, Kruse said. Handled correctly, a dynasty trust could potentially maintain an un-taxable fortune indefinitely. The oldest Kennedy trust on record dates back to 1936.

Like politics, tax savvy seems to run in the Kennedy family. The most recent example is the 1998 sale of the family’s most valuable asset: the iconic Merchandise Mart, a towering retail space on the Chicago River that was once thought to be the largest building in the world. Thanks to a carefully crafted deal with Vornado Realty VNO +0.13%, the Kennedy family deferred – or possibly avoided completely – capital gains tax on nearly half the value of the sale.

The Kennedys did this using an obscure investment tool called an “operating partnership unit.” Similar to equity, partnership units offered the Kennedys an ownership stake in Vornado Realty, generating a robust stream of dividends. Of the $303 million the family pocketed from the sale, $116 million came in the form of this investment instrument, according to SEC filings.

This alone isn’t a bad deal, being that the Kennedy’s have collected as much as $170 million in dividends since 1998, according to Forbes. The secret sauce, however, is that accepting partnership units in lieu of cash defers capital gains tax, as well as taxes on historical depreciation, for as long as the units are not cashed out, said Tony McEahern, head of wealth planning for Wells Fargo WFC -0.11 % Private Bank. In fact, if the partnership units were placed into trusts, capital gains taxes could potentially be deferred forever.

“This is definitely a tax-advantaged strategy,” said Rich Moore, managing director of equity research at RBC Capital Markets.

Christopher Kennedy declined to comment on how the sale’s proceeds were handled. However, public documents reveal that Caroline Kennedy, Robert Shriver, and Maria Shriver each collect income from assets dubbed Vornado Realty Trust and Vornado Realty Inc., which are valued at up to $7.5 million.

“We are a very public family with a very private investment philosophy,” Kennedy said.

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Caroline Kennedy: Thoughts on Father’s Day

A few days before I was born, NBC News interviewed my father, then-Senator John F. Kennedy. Reflecting the typical mindset of 1950s America, the interviewer asked my father, “If you were to have a son, would you encourage a political career for him?” Exhibiting the visionary spirit that would soon inspire the world in so many ways, my father answered, “Yes, and I hope if I had a daughter I might encourage her to play some part. I don’t think this should be confined to men only.”

In Japan, “womenomics” is the talk of the nation. Much of the discourse has focused on the needs and potential contributions of working mothers, but Father’s Day weekend is an appropriate time to celebrate fathers and remind ourselves that work-life balance isn’t just a women’s issue.

In his book Fatherneed, Yale University child psychologist Kyle Pruett notes that children whose fathers are deeply involved in their lives do better in school. Toddlers with involved fathers are better prepared to handle the stresses and frustrations associated with schooling than children whose fathers are less involved. And young men need dads who are present as they embark on their own life’s journey.

In other words, society benefits in tangible ways when fathers have the time to invest in the lives of their children.

And society benefits in other ways, too. When men are more involved at home, women are able to go back to school, or start a business. If a woman knows that her husband can help take care of their sick child, or fix dinner for the kids, she can seek out career opportunities. If Japanese women participate more actively in the economy, GDP will rise, benefitting everyone in Japan, including the employers of the men who may need to take time off once in a while to take care of their children.

When my father was interviewed back in 1957, he was already thinking about the society of the future built on equality and opportunity for all citizens: men and women, black and white. Many of the men who have had a major positive influence on the role of women have had daughters, and I don’t think it was an accident. When a man asks, “How would I want a boss to treat my daughter?” or “How would I want a co-worker to behave toward my mother?” or “Won’t my grandchildren be better off if their father is able to spend more time with them?” we all win.

Happy Father’s Day. Enjoy your day.

(Source: The Huffington Post)

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LIFE With JFK: Classic Portraits of a Political Superstar, 1947-1963

Not many public figures from the middle part of the 20th century are as closely identified with LIFE magazine as John Fitzgerald Kennedy. 
In fact, from his days as a decorated war hero in the late 1940s, through his years as a senator, into the White House and up until the very moment of his assassination, LIFE photographers spent an enormous amount of time (and film) on the ambitious Democrat from Massachusetts.

That he married a woman as magnetic and stylish as the former  Jacqueline Bouvier only further guaranteed that the two young cultural and political icons would never be absent from the weekly’s pages for long.

Here, features a series of photographs — many of which are classics, several of which never ran in LIFE — made during the decade and a half when John Kennedy was on his way to becoming, for a time, the most powerful person on earth.

(Source: TIME)

Filed under JFK John F. Kennedy Kennedy

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Memorial Day 1962, John F. Kennedy took Caroline along to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington. Pointing to a mansion overlooking the site, Caroline asked her father the name of the person who lived in it.
"His name is Robert E. Lee," said Kennedy. "He was a famous Confederate general in the Civil War."
"It’s beautiful," said Caroline, referring to the mansion.
"It is," agreed JFK. "And so is this cemetery. It’s very tranquil, almost restful… You know, Buttons, I think I could linger here forever."

Memorial Day 1962, John F. Kennedy took Caroline along to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington. Pointing to a mansion overlooking the site, Caroline asked her father the name of the person who lived in it.

"His name is Robert E. Lee," said Kennedy. "He was a famous Confederate general in the Civil War."

"It’s beautiful," said Caroline, referring to the mansion.

"It is," agreed JFK. "And so is this cemetery. It’s very tranquil, almost restful… You know, Buttons, I think I could linger here forever."

(Source: politicspoetry, via politicspoetry)

Filed under JFK Caroline Kennedy

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Get ready for the JFK centennial

Though no baby boomer will want to face this, in just under three years it is going to be the centennial of President John F. Kennedy. And the country should begin now to prepare for an appropriate celebration, something in proportion to previous grand presidential centennials where observances have lasted at least a year; where Congress, the White House, federal departments, universities, presidential libraries and other educational institutions focus on what the man meant to this nation and to the world.

There is a magnificent tradition in this nation of observing such anniversary moments. Most recently, the country did a first-rate job in 2009 of celebrating Abraham Lincoln’s bicentennial. And who knew that an African-American senator, also from Illinois, would get inaugurated as the commemorations began?

In the 1980s, there were widespread observances for the centennials of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. These included what was then the second-largest celebration in the Smithsonian’s history, with FDR exhibits in 12 of its museums. A joint meeting of Congress featured the speeches of FDR; another one featured Harry Truman’s former aides.

These observances emphasized two of the great successes of 20th century America, FDR’s standing up to the Axis Powers and Truman’s standing up to the Soviet Empire. Couldn’t we use a reminder of JFK’s successes dealing with nuclear weapons?

As it did for other centennials, Congress now should pass legislation forming a national commission with representatives from both parties, the private sector and academia that could begin to organize official activities. Special one-time appropriations should be made available for the Kennedy Library in Boston, much as Congress did in the mid-1970s by giving Stanford’s Hoover Institution $7 million for Herbert Hoover’s centennial (about $31 million today), and perhaps also for space exploration, the Peace Corps and Washington’s Kennedy Center, JFK’s living cultural memorial.

Think for a moment about how many schools in this nation are named after JFK. Wouldn’t it be great for all of them to use this unique occasion to teach their students the history of that time? Of course, this kind of celebration would include media coverage, encompassing the oldest film footage to online social networks.

All of this would allow the next president to use JFK’s memory to inspire and capture the imagination of today’s young people, as JFK did in his time. People need to be reminded that great world-changing accomplishments begin with individuals — an idea that is particularly important today as more and more citizens grow disenchanted with politics.

Numerous polls show the continuing relevance of John Kennedy. He remains part of our collective memory.

The recent observances of the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination showed there is no shortage of interest in his tragic death. It is time to focus on his life.

Peter Kovler chairs the Center for National Policy and the Kovler Foundations and led the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Centennial Committee in 1982 that was a key factor in the creation of the FDR Memorial in Washington, D.C. Robert Dallek is a historian specializing in the presidency whose many books include, “An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963.”


Filed under JFK John F. Kennedy

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"The twenty-first century can be our century if we approach it with the vigor, the determination, the wisdom, and the sheer confidence and joy of life that John Kennedy brought to America in 1960."

—Bill Clinton 

(Source: jfk-and-jackie)

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May 29, 1964: Jackie Kennedy’s Return to Arlington


By Nicolaus Mills, professor of American Studies at Sarah Lawrence College

Fifty years ago on May 29, 1964, Jackie Kennedy, accompanied by her two children, returned to Arlington National Cemetery. There she placed a sprig of lilies of the valley on President Kennedy’s grave.

The occasion was JFK’s 47th birthday, and Mrs. Kennedy’s homage seemed only natural. But today it is possible to see more than a tribute to her husband in Mrs. Kennedy’s actions. It is also possible to see her deciding the time had come for her and the nation to end their period of mourning.

The day, which was intensely covered by the media, began with Mrs. Kennedy attending mass at St. Matthew’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Washington, where Bishop Phillip M. Hannan, who had eulogized the president following his assassination, gave the requiem sermon. Mrs. Kennedy, who had been so stoic at her husband’s burial six months earlier, wore no veil on this occasion and allowed herself to be seen crying openly.

A crowd of 1,000 people was waiting on the hillside across the Potomac when Mrs. Kennedy visited President Kennedy’s gravesite after the service, but it was as if Mrs. Kennedy looked on this spring day as one in which she was free to express her full range of feelings without worrying about being judged.

She knelt by the president’s grave, then watched as her son took the gold tie clasp in the form of his father’s World War II boat, PT-109, that he had on his coat, and placed it on the pine boughs covering the grave.


By 4:30 p.m, Mrs. Kennedy was at the Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, home of her father-in-law, Joseph P. Kennedy, for an international telecast on President Kennedy’s life, but the most revealing indication of the specialness the day held for her came in the interview she did for the May 29 Life magazine.

On December 6 Mrs. Kennedy had been the subject of a Life cover story. In a widely remembered interview with journalist Theodore White, she had made a point of comparing the Kennedy administration to King Arthur’s legendary Camelot.  Referencing the popular Lerner and Loewe Broadway musical Camelot, she had told White that the specialness her husband and his administration had achieved was too unique to be duplicated.

“She came back to the idea that transfixed her,” White wrote. “Don’t let it be forgot, that was there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot—and it will never be that way again,” White quoted Mrs. Kennedy as saying.

In her Life interviewof May 29, Mrs. Kennedy was still elegiac about her husband, but this time she was not preoccupied with the idea of the Kennedy administration as mythic. She spoke instead about preparing an exhibit of the president’s mementos that would tour the country and be used to raise funds for the Kennedy Library.

The point of the library, she stressed, was to let the president’s example be a guide to the future, not just evoke nostalgia for the past. The ’60s, Mrs. Kennedy was implicitly saying, needed a fresh start, and she was not going to stand in the way of that fresh start or turn herself into a professional widow.

Two months later, Mrs. Kennedy announced that she was giving up her home in Georgetown and moving to New York. The move freed her from the crowds that gathered daily in Georgetown to watch her comings and goings, but above all, the move let her start a new life on terms of her choosing.

In New York, Mrs. Kennedy became a leading figure in the city’s cultural life. The preservation of St. Bartholomew’s Church on Park Avenue and, most important, the preservation of Grand Central Station, which for a time during the ’70s lost its landmark designation, were among her triumphs.

“Jackie Onassis will save us,” the famed modern architect Philip Johnson commented when she took the lead in the fight to stop a proposed 59-story office tower from being erected over Grand Central Station. Johnson’s praise, made in 1975, captures how dramatically Mrs. Kennedy altered the public’s view of her and how easy it is to forget, living as we do in the age of Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama, that, prior to the ’60s, presidential wives were seen but rarely heard, especially after their husbands left office. 

In deciding what to do after she moved away from Washington, Mrs. Kennedy had before her only the modern example of Eleanor Roosevelt, who, following her husband’s death, took an active role in the United Nations and continued writing her newspaper column. But Mrs. Roosevelt was in her sixties when her husband died after 12 years in office. In 1964 Jackie Kennedy was just 35, the widow of a first-term president, when she began setting historical precedents of her own.


Filed under Jackie Kennedy JFK Kennedy John F. Kennedy Jacqueline Kennedy

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We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light a candle that can guide us through that darkness to a safe and sane future. For the world is changing. The old era is ending. The old ways will not do.

John F. Kennedy

Filed under JFK John F. Kennedy

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"He remembered things about his father, but those recollections came with the uncertainty as to whether they were his own or someone else’s telling enfolded in his memory. Sometimes if we were lying in the grass, he’d graze a buttercup against my chin to prove I liked butter. "My father did that," he’d say. Or he’d whisper nothing in my ear—Pss, Pss, Pss—until I laughed. My father did that. There was his hiding place in the desk; the helicopter’s roar; his father calling him Sam and that making him mad; and nine days before Dallas, the performance of the pipers of the Black Watch on the South Lawn of the White House. The last memory he knew was his: the drums, the marching, and how he’d squirmed off his father’s lap to get closer.”

—Christina Haag

(Source: politicspoetry, via you-me-kennedy)

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