CHILD OF THE PLEDGE

Forbes - - CONTENTS - By ash­lea ebel­ing

Ted Stan­ley made a for­tune on knick­knacks, then promised it to med­i­cal re­search on men­tal ill­ness. His son is bird- dog­ging that com­mit­ment. And, yes, it’s per­sonal.

Ted Stan­ley made a for­tune on knick­knacks, then promised it to med­i­cal re­search on men­tal ill­ness. His son is bird-dog­ging that com­mit­ment. And, yes, it’s per­sonal.

At the age of 19, Jonathan Stan­ley dropped out of col­lege and be­gan be­hav­ing er­rat­i­cally. He ended up in a psy­chi­atric unit, brought there by New York City cops called to deal with a naked young man in a deli con­vinced se­cret agents were af­ter him. Di­ag­nosed as bipo­lar with psy­chotic features, Jon went through what he calls a “dra­matic four years” be­fore, with the help of lithium and Te­gre­tol, he got fully back on track. He grad­u­ated from Wil­liams Col­lege and Quin­nip­iac School of Law and be­came an ex­pert and lob­by­ist on laws af­fect­ing com­mit­ment and treatment of the men­tally ill. Name a state and Jon can rat­tle off what’s right or wrong with its laws.

Yet at 51 he has put his le­gal work on the back burner, go­ing into “semire­tire­ment,” as he puts it in typ­i­cally self-dep­re­cat­ing fash­ion. That’s be­cause most of his work­ing hours are now de­voted to com­plet­ing his late fa­ther’s $1.4 bil­lion char­i­ta­ble com­mit­ment to med­i­cal re­search on men­tal ill­ness, as well as to deal­ing with more mun­dane de­tails of his dad’s es­tate. Jon fig­ures he’ll be ready for his third act by the time he’s 60.

Sure, lots of aging boomers and Gen Xers take time from busy lives to wrap up their par­ents’ af­fairs. But Jon Stan­ley has em­braced a rare fil­ial duty as what might be called a child of the pledge. Since Bill and Melinda Gates and War­ren Buf­fett pro­posed in 2010 that their fel­low bil­lion­aires prom­ise to give at least half their wealth to char­ity, ei­ther dur­ing their life­time or at death, 158 Giv­ing Pledges have been signed, in­clud­ing by Jon’s par­ents, Ted and Vada Stan­ley. In only eight cases have both hus­band and wife (or a sole signer) passed away. There are likely some dis­ap­pointed would-be heirs out there, but many pledgers, like the Gates, try to bring their kids in early on their phil­an­thropic plans.

That’s ex­actly what Ted Stan­ley had done— long be­fore the giv­ing pledge was a thing or he had a spe­cific cause. Ted, who died sud­denly in Jan­uary 2016 at the age of 84, built a for­tune mar­ket­ing col­lectibles. In 1969, he launched the Dan­bury Mint with moon-land­ing medals. Its par­ent, MBI, now ped­dles ev­ery­thing from cu­bic zirconia jew­elry to gilt-edged books.

Yet Ted him­self was any­thing but friv­o­lous or flashy. Even when he was a kid, Jon re­calls, his par­ents took pride in do­nat­ing half their in­come each year, and his dad made clear al­most all his for­tune would go to phi­lan­thropy, not fam­ily.

“In other fam­i­lies I would be a bil­lion­aire. I don’t need to be a bil­lion­aire,’’ says Jon, who lives com­fort­ably in a $1.5 mil­lion Fort Laud­erdale high-rise condo.

Still, fam­ily—and more specif­i­cally his son— played a big part in Ted Stan­ley’s char­i­ta­ble mis­sion. “My own ex­pe­ri­ence with men­tal ill­ness was the big­gest cri­sis in his life un­til my mom got sick with de­men­tia be­fore she died [in 2013],’’ Jon says. “I got real sick. Then with the right pills I got bet­ter. That gave [my fa­ther] a fo­cus for his phi­lan­thropy.” Jon, in turn, seems laser-fo­cused on mak­ing sure Ted’s char­i­ta­ble in­tent is re­al­ized, says lawyer Peter Chad­wick, who is co­ex­ecu­tor, with Jon, of Ted’s es­tate.

“I’m the na­tion’s lead­ing ex­pert on the mind of Ted Stan­ley,” Jon ex­plains. “My dad was very in­su­lar, and I was one of his con­fi­dants.”

In 1989, Ted and Vada gave $1 mil­lion to seed the Stan­ley Med­i­cal Re­search In­sti­tute in Bethes-

da, Mary­land, to study treat­ments for schizophre­nia and bipo­lar dis­or­der. Then, over time, they cut back on other giv­ing and plowed nearly $600 mil­lion into the in­sti­tute, which ran drug tri­als the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies wouldn’t (for ex­am­ple, of generic medicines or off-la­bel uses) and spon­sored re­search into the re­la­tion­ship of in­flam­ma­tory mark­ers and in­fec­tious agents to those ill­nesses. The in­sti­tute will shut down in the next few years, says E. Fuller Tor­rey, the 79-year-old psy­chi­a­trist who di­rected most of its work.

That’s be­cause a decade ago, with Tor­rey aging and ad­vances in psy­chi­atric drugs stalled, the Stan­leys de­cided to in­vest in new ap­proaches—in par­tic­u­lar, us­ing genome map­ping to look for mark­ers as­so­ci­ated with men­tal ill­ness. In 2007, they gave $100 mil­lion to start the Stan­ley Cen­ter for Psy­chi­atric Re­search at the Broad In­sti­tute of MIT & Har­vard, a Cam­bridge bio­med­i­cal re­search cen­ter seeded by Giv­ing Pledge sign­ers Eli and Edythe Broad.

In 2014, hav­ing al­ready given $175 mil­lion to Broad, Ted pledged an ad­di­tional $650 mil­lion—the largest-ever gift for psy­chi­atric re- search—with most of that to be funded, af­ter his death, out of his ma­jor­ity stake in MBI. “What Broad cre­ated made sense to my dad, so he tagged his whole legacy into it,” Jon says, adding that he sees the move as akin to Buf­fett’s de­ci­sion to leave the bulk of his for­tune to the al­ready up-and-run­ning Bill & Melinda Gates Foun­da­tion.

As the son of a Read­ing Rail­road brake­man, Ted Stan­ley was not one to waste money. In ad­di­tion to sav­ing the ex­pense of set­ting up his own genome re­search group, Ted in­structed that the pri­vate Stan­ley Fam­ily Foun­da­tion—through which his do­na­tions are fun­neled—would dis­solve within a decade af­ter his death. “Ted didn’t want a foun­da­tion that per­pet­u­ated [it­self] and be­came fat and lazy,” ex­plains his long­time busi­ness part­ner, Julius Friese, who serves as a trustee of the foun­da­tion along with Jon and a Stan­ley cousin.

Mean­while, each trustee gets to rec­om­mend a slice of the foun­da­tion’s an­nual giv­ing; Jon di­rects $600,000 a year to the Treatment Ad­vo­cacy Cen­ter, where he worked as a lawyer and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor and is now a guid­ing force on the board. John Snook, the cur­rent ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, cred­its Jon with play­ing a piv­otal role in TAC’S ad­vo­cacy, which has led 30 states to change their civil com­mit­ment laws to al­low for court-su­per­vised com­mu­nity treatment for the men­tally ill, in­stead of just hos­pi­tal­iza­tion and dis­charge. “No fam­ily has done as much to ad­vance the cause of men­tal ill­ness treatment,’’ Snook says.

By the end of 2015, just be­fore Ted’s death, the Stan­ley Fam­ily Foun­da­tion had ful­filled the first $50 mil­lion of his $650 mil­lion pledge and held a half-bil­lion in as­sets, in­clud­ing a por­tion of Ted’s MBI hold­ings val­ued at $214 mil­lion. Now the rest of his MBI stake is go­ing to the foun­da­tion, and while Jon won’t say what it’s worth, it seems to be more than enough to make good on the Broad pledge. Pri­vately held MBI says on its web­site it does $350 mil­lion a year in sales.

For now, like any kid han­dling a par­ent’s es­tate, Jon is busy talk­ing to real­tors about mar­ket­ing the fam­ily’s house and fig­ur­ing out what to do with their stuff. Only in this case the house was de­signed by Frank Lloyd Wright, sits on 15 acres in New Canaan, Con­necti­cut, be­side a water­fall and pond, and is on the mar­ket for $8 mil­lion; the “stuff ” in­cludes an ash­tray with a ci­gar butt sup­pos­edly left by Wright him­self (see box, p. 58).

Jon is also trustee of var­i­ous trusts his dad set up for fam­ily mem­bers, in­clud­ing a step­brother and step­sis­ter from Vada’s first mar­riage. “[The trusts] are more than enough to live your life, but no­body’s get­ting on a pri­vate jet,” he says ap­prov­ingly.

Chang­ing laws af­fect­ing treatment of the men­tally ill in 30 states: Jon Stan­ley (right) with John Snook, cur­rent ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Treatment Ad­vo­cacy Cen­ter.

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