Hobby Lobby’s founder said that he has relinquished ownership of his multibillion-dollar retail empire because he has “chosen God” — and the move may also help him avoid a hefty tax bill.
David Green, the 80-year-old CEO of the arts and crafts chain whose net worth has been valued by Forbes at $13.7 billion, likened his decision to similar moves by the owners of Patagonia and Barnhart Crane who “gave away” ownership to “allow the mission and purpose to remain intact.”
Last month, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard announced that he transferred ownership of the sportswear brand to a nonprofit organization, effectively rerouting nearly all of the company’s profits to environmental preservation organizations.
“When I made the decision to give away my ownership, similar to Patagonia’s Yvon Chouinard, it allowed us to sustain our mission and purpose,” Green wrote in an op-ed piece for Fox News.
An analysis by Bloomberg News, meanwhile, found that Chouinard, whose net worth has been calculated by Forbes at $1.2 billion, may have saved himself from paying more than $700 million in capital gains taxes by transferring 98% of Patagonia’s shares to a nonprofit.
Chouinard also dodged federal estate and gift taxes which amount to 40% on large fortunes that are transferred to heirs, according to Bloomberg News.
Hobby Lobby didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Green wrote in his op-ed that he plans on transferring ownership of the company to a trust instead of passing it down to his children, and told Fox and Friends Weekend that there are downsides to being rich.
“Wealth can be a curse and, in most cases, if you drill down on it, wealth is a curse in terms of marriage, children and things of that nature,” Green said.
“So we’re stewarding our company and, therefore, our children come to work, and they get what they earn… it’s a paradigm change from ownership that can really wreck a family.”
Green said that he grew uncomfortable with the idea of a business owner selling the firm and “keep[ing] the profits for yourself and your family.”
“As our company grew, that idea began to bother me more and more,” he wrote.
“Well-meaning attorneys and accountants advised me to simply pass ownership down to my children and grandchildren.”
Green added: “It didn’t seem fair to me that I might change or even ruin the future of grandchildren who had not even been born yet.”
Green wrote in his op-ed that he considers himself a “steward” of the company rather than its owner.
He recalled a period in the 1980s when “I nearly lost the business” after having “grown proud thinking that I had the Midas touch.”
“God had to show me that He was the one who granted success,” according to Green, who quotes scripture as saying that “it’s God who gives us the power to make wealth.”
Green credits “prayer and the Bible” for being “my source of truth,” writing: “I truly believe that if leaders pray and seek truth from the Bible that their businesses will be revolutionized.”
Alan Barnart, an evangelical Christian and the former CEO of Memphis-based steel-erecting firm Barnhart Crane & Rigging, announced years ago that he and his brother, company co-founder Eric Barnhart, gave away their $250 million fortune, citing scripture.
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