Heeere's Johnny With a Check for $156M

"Tonight Show" legend's estate transfers big gift to his charitable foundation

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    NBCU Photo Bank
    Bandleader Doc Severinsen, host Johnny Carson and McMahon laugh it up on the set of the "Tonight Show."

    Johnny Carson stopped making people laugh in 2005, but he's still making them smile, with a posthumous $156 million gift to fund countless charities. 

    "Tonight Show" legend Johnny Carson's estate left a whopping $156 million to a charity he established in the years prior to his 2005 death, according to papers just uncovered by thesmokinggun.com. The donation from the late entertainer’s estate to his foundation makes it Hollywood's biggest charity, dwarfing David Geffen's $80 million charitable organization.

    The gift was disclosed in a tax return filed three months ago by the John W. Carson Foundation, records show. It came in the form of $35.2 million in cash and $121.2 million in securities and royalty rights from the John W. Carson Trust, according to the document sleuthing website.

    Carson started the foundation in 1982, and it regularly helped fund grants to a variety of organizations including environmental groups, AIDS charities, schools, children’s aid organizations, and not-for-profits in his home state of Nebraska.

    Details of Carson’s estate were never made public, so it is unknown how much of it is represented by the $156 million gift. Carson died of emphysema at age 79, and was survived by his fourth wife, Alexis, and two sons from his first marriage.

    Although he gave generously to charities while he was alive, he was very private about it. The foundation he started, which is run by a Beverly Hills lawyer and accountant team, recently pledged $4 million to the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, $100,000 to the Los Angeles Free Clinic, and $125,000 for a Planned Parenthood high school sex education initiative.

    Last week, 40 billionaires, including Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Michael Bloomberg and ted turner, all agreed to donate half or all of their estates to charity upon their deaths.