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 and the company’s biggest shareholder, to free the money for relatives and charities.
The trust, started by Chambers’s father, Ohio Governor James M. Cox, the Democratic presidential nominee in 1920, holds almost 175 million shares in closely held Cox Enterprises, according to a July 30 filing in state court in Atlanta by James Cox Kennedy, the company chairman.
Chambers, 93, owns 49 percent of Cox Enterprises, which publishes the Atlanta Journal Constitution and runs dozens of TV and radio stations through its Cox Media Group unit. She has an estimated net worth of $8.1 billion and is the world’s 147th richest person, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
“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 yesterday by e-mail. He declined to say how the move would affirm family control.
The proposal has been agreed upon by all of the parties involved and isn’t a legal dispute with Chambers, Kennedy’s lawyer, James Spratt, said yesterday in a phone interview. He and Jimenez declined to provide Chambers’s contact information or name her lawyer or law firm.
The petition was filed in court because the terms of the 72-year-old trust say only a judge can dissolve it. The proposal would give about 8 million shares to charities, with the rest distributed to the family.
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.
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.
Other charities that stand to benefit are the Atlanta Humane Society, the Atlanta Historical Society, Bard College, Emory University and the Museum of Modern Art, Kennedy said in the petition.
Chambers’s 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 Atlanta Journal Co., a predecessor to Cox Enterprises, according to the filing.
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.
The case is Kennedy v. Chambers, 2013CV234409, Superior Court of Fulton County, State of Georgia (Atlanta).