The San Antonio Area Foundation has announced a bequest valued at more than $605 million from local cinema businessman and real estate entrepreneur John L. Santikos. It’s the largest gift made in the entire philanthropic community of America in 2015.
The largest gift in the fifty-one-year history of the foundation as well as the largest gift on record in the San Antonio area represents the bulk of Santikos’ estate, including his theater chain, real estate businesses, and land assets. Earlier this year, following Santikos’s death in December 2014 at the age of 87, SAAF established the John L. Santikos Charitable Foundation Fund to manage the bequest. The valuation of the estate, however, was not known at the time. According to the San Antonio Express News, the gift will more than triple the $290 million in assets the foundation administers on behalf of some five hundred charitable funds.
The Santikos Charitable Foundation and Santikos Enterprises LLC will operate like subsidiaries of SAAF, with proceeds from the theaters, real estate, and investments to be distributed to nonprofits. Santikos had identified five broad issue areas for his support — people in need (including seniors), people with special needs, victims of child abuse, and people affected by natural disasters; youth and education, including K-12 and higher education; public libraries, parks, and museums; arts and culture; and medicine, health care, and medical research. Santikos, whose family fled Greece in the 1940s during the civil war in that country, also designated thatInternational Orthodox Christian Charities and Doctors Without Borders receive annual support from his fund.
To date, the estate has awarded 141 “memorial” grants totaling $6.6 million to 113 nonprofits through SAAF. The transfer of assets is expected to take a couple of years to complete, SAAF president and CEO Dennis E. Noll told the Express News. The foundation’s goal is to increase its grantmaking annually over the next five years.
“This truly is a transformative gift from our dear friend John Santikos. The Area Foundation is humbled and grateful to have the tremendous responsibility in continuing his legacy,” said Noll. “He led a quiet, private life, but his final acts in life to prepare for the future of others speak loudly upon his legacy and showcase the visionary that he was, both in business and civic-minded matters.”