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Spouse of Head of McDonald’s Leaves Gift of $200M to NPR

By Jacques Steinberg

The New York Times -- National Public Radio announced on Thursday that it had received a bequest worth at least $200 million from the widow of the longtime chairman of the McDonald’s restaurant chain.

The gift is the largest in the 33-year history of NPR, the nonprofit broadcasting corporation -- and about twice the size of NPR’s annual operating budget. It is believed to be among the largest ever pledged to an American cultural institution.

The designation of the gift, which is largely in cash and will be made available to NPR early next year, was contained in the will of Joan B. Kroc, 75, the widow of Ray A. Kroc. Joan Kroc, who died on Oct. 12, was a former owner of the San Diego Padres and longtime philanthropist. In 1998 she gave $100 million to the Salvation Army, and last week the University of Notre Dame announced a gift from her of $50 million.

In announcing Kroc’s donation, Kevin Klose, the president and chief executive of NPR, said that the broadcasting company had yet to decide how the money would be spent. For now, he said, “most of it will not be spent; it is to be saved.”

Klose said that the NPR board would meet soon to begin discussing how best to spend the interest earned by the money. At an annual rate of 5 percent, it would generate about $10 million a year. The gift was first reported in Thursday’s issue of The Washington Post.

Much of the gift is likely to be deposited in NPR’s endowment fund, which has about $35 million in it, Klose said.

NPR, which has an annual operating budget of about $100 million, receives about half its revenue from membership payments made by more than 700 independent radio stations that use NPR programming. The rest comes from foundations and from corporations that sponsor NPR’s programming.

Only a small amount of NPR’s budget is in the form of direct grants from the federal government. But member stations rely, to some extent, on financing provided by the federal government and their respective states, and many of those stations have been under financial pressure in recent years.

Klose said that in weighing how to best capitalize on Kroc’s largesse, the great needs of member stations will be taken into account. In a news conference, he mentioned that many stations needed help acquiring the latest technology, enabling them to take advantage of the marketing and broadcasting possibilities of the Internet. And in at least one instance, he said, a station was in such dire financial shape that it did not have the money to acquire the parts necessary to broadcast warnings, in the event of an emergency, on behalf of the government.

It was Kroc’s affinity for one local station, KPBS in San Diego, near where she lived, that led to the donation to NPR.