Ian Anderson 12:38 p.m., Nov. 15
Copley foundation's steep fall from grace
IRS report for 2011 reveals Copley charity, once worth mega-millions, down to its last $5.4 million
The Helen K. and James S. Copley Foundation has continued its years-long downward spiral, according to the non-profit's public accounting for 2011, filed with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service on August 23 of this year.
The tax-free foundation, funded by the late Union-Tribune publisher Helen Copley and her husband James, who died in 1973, was once a powerhouse among San Diego charities. Just four years ago, it boasted total net assets of $18,082,457.
By the end of 2011, though, the foundation's assets had plunged to $5,454,476, down from $7,138,374 twelve months before.
Last year's income was $153,396, all from interest and dividends; the charity received no contributions.
The future of the foundation has been further clouded by the passing of its president, David Copley, who died Tuesday after suffering an apparent heart attack and crashing his Aston Martin in La Jolla. He was 60.
Since the death of his mother in 2004, Copley has repeatedly tapped the foundation to pay for his personal philanthropy, including $2 million in cash bequests to the new downtown public library and a $6 million pledge in 2008 to endow UCLA's David C. Copley Chair for the Study of Costume Design and the David C. Copley Center for the Study of Costume Design in Brentwood.
According to an account in U-T San Diego, formerly known as the San Diego Union-Tribune, Copley's friendship with Animal House director Jon Landis and his wife, costume designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis, had something to do with that hefty out-of-town gift. Nadoolman Landis is the Copley center's founding director and professor in chief.
The Copley foundation has also picked up the tab for a $5 million multi-year pledge to the Sharp Healthcare Foundation and a similar $3 million pledge to the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, according to the IRS filings.
Copley received a heart transplant at Sharp in 2005.
Without any replacement funds for the foundation's distributions, its assets have continued to shrink.
Last year's total payout to charity was $1,853,142, according to the IRS filing.
In addition to its annual pledge obligations, the foundation's gifts included $50,000 to underwrite a San Diego Symphony recital by violinist Itzhak Perlman; $75,000 to the San Diego Crew Classic's Copley Cup; and $10,000 to pay for the Copley Directors' Fund at the Old Globe Theatre.
The San Diego Rescue Mission got $1,000.