Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment says assets drop 7 percent to $5.3 billion at end of 2009

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Lilly Endowment’s assets drop 7 percent to $5.3B

INDIANAPOLIS — The assets of the Lilly Endowment fell 7 percent to $5.3 billion at the end of last year as the foundation remains heavily invested in the stock of drugmaker Eli Lilly and Co.

The 73-year-old private endowment also reported distributing its smallest grant total in more than a decade, giving out $276.1 million in 2009 — 16 percent less than the year before.

In its annual report released Monday, the Indianapolis-based endowment blamed the recession for its asset losses and called the economic situation “sobering.”

“We are confident conditions will eventually improve, but it may be some time before the impact of a recovery is felt broadly throughout society,” the report said.

The Lilly Endowment, which is independent of the drugmaker, remains among the nation’s 10 largest grant-making foundations. The foundation said Indiana organizations received 76 percent of the 2009 grants. They went mainly to support education, religion and community development initiatives.

The endowment’s assets have been in a downward trend since being valued at $15.6 billion in 2000. While the fund’s leaders have pledged to diversify its holdings, Eli Lilly and Co. stock remains 91 percent of its investments.

Eli Lilly and Co. shares have dropped since the company’s patent on the blockbuster antidepressant Prozac expired in 2001.

Like other endowments, Lilly provides grants each year based on a percentage of the value of its fund. As the fund shrinks, so do its grants. Endowment spokeswoman Gretchen Wolfram said that the 2009 grant distribution was the least since $252.3 million was given out in 1997.

“We see this (income and spending declines) all around the country,” said Lesley Lenkowsky, a professor at the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy. “But it, too, will pass.”

The high concentration of grants to Indiana groups last year partly came about because of having less to distribute.

“You focused on your core groups,” Wolfram said.

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