Wal-Mart widow leaves shares for charity

/ Source: The Associated Press

The family of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton said Tuesday that a “significant portion” of his widow’s stake in the company will pass to charity over a period of years.

The family released a statement through the company in response to inquiries about whether Helen Walton’s recent death will require substantial sales of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. shares.

Helen Walton owned an estimated 8.1 percent stake in the retail giant, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The stake has a value of about $16.4 billion based on Tuesday’s closing price of Wal-Mart stock.

“While Helen Walton’s disposition of her Wal-Mart interest will not require sales of a substantial number of Wal-Mart shares for the next several years, it is expected that Wal-Mart shares will be disposed of over time to fund charitable programs,” the family said in the statement.

The loss of Helen Walton’s shares will reduce the Walton family’s control of Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer.

The Walton family currently owns just over 40 percent of Wal-Mart’s outstanding shares through a family partnership. Helen Walton’s estate, the estate of her son John Walton, who died in a 2005 plane crash, and her three surviving children each own an equal share of the partnership, Walton Enterprises LLC.

Helen Walton died Thursday in her home at the age of 87 of natural causes.

Aside from her wealth — she was listed in Forbes magazine last month as the 29th richest person in the world — she was widely known in Arkansas for her philanthropy. She supported education and the arts, family and children’s programs. She also was active at local and national levels in the Presbyterian Church.

Her philanthropy included a Walton Family Foundation gift of $300 million to the University of Arkansas and a $50 million grant to that institution’s Sam M. Walton School of Business.

Helen Walton was buried Monday in a private ceremony next to her husband Sam in Bentonville Cemetery, which is next to Wal-Mart’s headquarters. Sam Walton died in 1992 at the age of 74.