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Charities to Lenfest Family: Thanks a Billion

H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest and his family have amassed a fortune of about $1 billion through the cable industry, but they have no intention of holding onto it.

Lenfest and his wife, Marguerite, have already given away about one-third of it over the past four years, and they said they want to give it all away before they die, according to AP.

Lenfest told AP many charitable institutions lost their effectiveness after their founders died, so he decided that the bulk of the family's fortune should not end up in long-lasting endowments.

"During your lifetime, you can direct how your wealth is spent for the most good," he told AP. "But after your death, it is problematic. You don't have the control."

So far, the couple has given or pledged about $325 million of their earnings from the sale of the cable business the family began building in 1974.

Lenfest started with a small system in Lebanon, Pa., in 1974, eventually expanding it into MSO The Lenfest Group, which he sold to Comcast Corp. for some $1.2 billion in 2000.