Non-profit

Johnny Carson Foundation

Location:

ENCINO, CA

Tax ID:

20-5885752

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Budget (2019):

Revenue: $8,699,011
Expenses: $11,110,290
Assets: $138,355,023

Location:

Encino, California

Formation:

1981

Type:

Private Grantmaking Foundation

The Johnny Carson Foundation is a Los Angeles-based private grantmaking nonprofit that was founded by the late television host and comedian Johnny Carson. Financed by Carson’s estate, nearly all of the foundation’s grants go to Los Angeles-area charities and nonprofits, as well as to Carson’s alma mater, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Despite its status as the largest Hollywood charity, the foundation keeps an intentionally low profile and does not have a website nor any form of social media. 1 2

Founding and History

The Johnny Carson Foundation was founded in 1981 as the John W. Carson Foundation by Johnny Carson, the famed, award-winning host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show.” 3 Carson would donate between $1-2 million annually to his charity, funds which largely went towards children’s aid groups and local nonprofits in Nebraska and Los Angeles. 4

Though Carson passed away in 2005, it was revealed in 2010 that his trust fund had left $156 million to the Johnny Carson Foundation, making it the largest Hollywood charity. 5

Present Activities

Some of the foundation’s greatest recipients include the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Carson’s alma mater.

The Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles regularly receives grants from the foundation and has, in the past, received grants of over $4 million. 6

Since the early 2000’s, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) has received over $30 million from the Johnny Carson Foundation. In return, UNL has named numerous scholastic funds and ventures after the late actor, including the Johnny Carson School of Theater and Film, the Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts, and the Johnny Carson Opportunity Scholarship Fund. 7

The Johnny Carson Foundation has also given over $10,000 to the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, a supported project of the ACLU Foundation of Southern California-led Check the Sheriff Coalition, which alleged in May 2021 that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department had harassed the families of people shot by LASD deputies. 8

Finances

The Johnny Carson Foundation is financed entirely by the $156 million bequeathed to it by Johnny Carson’s trust fund in 2010. Of that amount, $35.2 million was in cash and $121.2 million was in securities and royalty rights. 9

Accordingly, the Johnny Carson Foundation’s revenues come entirely from investment returns and the sale of assets. The foundation’s most recent publicly available financial filings from 2018 show total revenues of $10,548,605 and total expenses of $11,345,433. 10

In 2018, the foundation gave out over $8 million in grants, mostly to Los Angeles-based general aid charities and education, including youth schooling, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the University of Southern California, and the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA). That year, its largest grants were a $2 million gift to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Foundation and a $285,000 grant to Homeboy Industries, an LA-based gang rehabilitation nonprofit. 11

Leadership

The president of the Johnny Carson Foundation is Allan Alexander. 12

The board of the Johnny Carson Foundation includes Steve Sotzing, Jeff Sotzing, Larry Witzer, and Lawrence Heller. 13 The Sotzings are the late Carson’s nephews; Jeff Sotzing was a producer on “The Tonight Show.” 14 Witzer is the co-founder of Gettelson Witzer and O’Connor, the foundation’s accountants, and Heller is a shareholder in Greenberg Traurig, a major international law firm. 15 16

References

  1. Scutari, Mike. “‘Heeeeeere’s the Johnny CARSON Foundation!” (and Its Recent BIG Give).” Inside Philanthropy. Inside Philanthropy, November 18, 2015. https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/journalism/2015/11/18/heeeeeeres-the-johnny-carson-foundation-and-its-recent-big-g.html.
  2. “Carnac the Munificent.” The Smoking Gun, August 8, 2010. http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/celebrity/carnac-munificent.
  3. Scutari, Mike. “‘Heeeeeere’s the Johnny CARSON Foundation!” (and Its Recent BIG Give).” Inside Philanthropy. Inside Philanthropy, November 18, 2015. https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/journalism/2015/11/18/heeeeeeres-the-johnny-carson-foundation-and-its-recent-big-g.html.
  4. Smith, Aaron. “Johnny Carson’s $156 Million Gift to Charity.” CNNMoney. Cable News Network, August 10, 2010. https://money.cnn.com/2010/08/10/news/economy/john_carson_foundation/index.htm.
  5. “Carnac the Munificent.” The Smoking Gun, August 8, 2010. http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/celebrity/carnac-munificent.
  6. “Foundation Created by Johnny Carson Receives $156 Million Bequest.” Philanthropy News Digest, August 11, 2010. https://philanthropynewsdigest.org/news/foundation-created-by-johnny-carson-receives-156-million-bequest.
  7. Scutari, Mike. “‘Heeeeeere’s the Johnny CARSON Foundation!” (and Its Recent BIG Give).” Inside Philanthropy. Inside Philanthropy, November 18, 2015. https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/journalism/2015/11/18/heeeeeeres-the-johnny-carson-foundation-and-its-recent-big-g.html.
  8. Anti-Recidivism Coalition Brochure. Anti-Recidivism Coalition , 2020. https://antirecidivism.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/ARC-Brochure_Digital.11.30.2020.pdf.
  9. “Carnac the Munificent.” The Smoking Gun, August 8, 2010. http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/celebrity/carnac-munificent.
  10.  “Johnny Carson Foundation – Nonprofit Explorer.” ProPublica. Accessed August 23, 2021. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/205885752.
  11. “Johnny Carson Foundation – Nonprofit Explorer.” ProPublica. Accessed August 23, 2021. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/205885752.
  12. “Johnny Carson Foundation Giving $20M for Media Program.” The AP. AP, November 7, 2015. https://apnews.com/article/e36b61acb795455db76d2dfbf7dd8d59.
  13. “Alumni Board Awards Announced.” Alumni Board Awards announced | Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts | Nebraska, April 22, 2020. https://arts.unl.edu/art/news/alumni-board-awards-announced-1.
  14. Linou, Vivianne. “The Legacy of Johnny Carson with Jeff Sotzing, Johnny’s Nephew and President of CARSON ENTERTAINMENT.” WGN Radio 720 – Chicago’s Very Own. WGN Radio 720 – Chicago’s Very Own, May 14, 2021. https://wgnradio.com/dave-plier/the-legacy-of-johnny-carson-with-jeff-sotzing-johnnys-nephew-and-president-of-carson-entertainment/.
  15. Witzer, Larry. “Larry Witzer LinkedIn Profile .” LinkedIn. LinkedIn. Accessed August 23, 2021. https://www.linkedin.com/in/larry-witzer-1898004/.
  16. “Lawrence H. HELLER: Professionals: Greenberg TRAURIG LLP.” Professionals | Greenberg Traurig LLP. Accessed August 23, 2021. https://www.gtlaw.com/en/professionals/h/heller-lawrence-h.
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: June - May
  • Tax Exemption Received: December 1, 2006

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2019 Jun Form PF $8,699,011 $11,110,290 $138,355,023 $1 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2015 Jun Form PF $8,944,697 $10,830,397 $147,312,080 $1 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2014 Jun Form PF $3,938,421 $9,701,525 $149,197,780 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2013 Jun Form PF $10,459,228 $11,991,455 $154,960,884 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2012 Jun Form PF $4,852,476 $11,149,365 $156,493,109 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2011 Jun Form PF $4,910,414 $7,483,998 $162,789,998 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Johnny Carson Foundation

    16000 VENTURA BLVD STE 900
    ENCINO, CA 91436-2760