Is Surfings First Billionaire a $500-million Philanthropist or a Tax-Evading Villain?
When Nick Woodman became surfings first billionaire when GoPro went public it was a day to celebrate. He was one of us. A surfer. A surfer who dirt-bagged it all over the world in the name of getting barreled and then created a product to capture these feelings and cashed out. If that ain’t the dream!
And it got even sweeter when he created the Woodman Foundation after becoming a billionaire. Putting $500-million towards a great cause. But four years later there is still no trace of the Foundation existing and he has saved untold amounts in tax savings. Seems like he’s not the only one in Silicon Valley that is pulling the charity for tax refund purposes, which is a great thing as long as the charity is actually doing something. The NY Times investigated.
Late in 2014, Nicholas Woodman, the founder and chief executive of GoPro, announced what appeared to be an extraordinary act of generosity.
Mr. Woodman, then 39, had just taken his camera company public, and was suddenly worth about $3 billion. Now he was giving away much of that wealth — some $500 million worth of GoPro stock — to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, an organization based in Mountain View, Calif., that would house the assets of the newly formed Jill and Nicholas Woodman Foundation.
“We wake up every morning grateful for the opportunities life has given us,” Mr. Woodman and his wife said in a statement at the time. “We hope to return the favor as best we can.”
The executive basked in prestige and gratitude. The Chronicle of Philanthropy named Mr. Woodman one of “America’s most generous donors” that year, placing him alongside established philanthropists like Bill and Melinda Gates and Michael R. Bloomberg.
But four years on, there is almost no trace of the Woodman Foundation, or that $500 million. The foundation has no website and has not listed its areas of focus, and it is not known what — if any — significant grants it has made to nonprofits. An extensive search of public records turned up just one beneficiary: the Bonny Doon Art, Wine and Brew Festival, a benefit for an elementary school in California.