A decade ago, the late Rush Limbaugh scoffed at the notion of leaving any of his money behind. We know this because he was reacting to us.
Our coverage of Steve Jobs' no-tax estate plan made a lot of waves. Rush felt the need to insert himself into the narrative by sharing his thoughts about legacy.
They were terse and tough. He didn't want to leave anything behind. If he spent everything and died broke, he'd be happy, he said.
Now, a year after announcing he had terminal cancer, he's gone. And as far as anyone can tell, he left a whole lot of money behind.
Some estimates put his net worth above $600 million. That's probably just career earnings and not a real net figure, but it provides a sense of the amount of cash flowing into his operation over the years.
He was the biggest name in radio. It takes a vast amount of work to burn as much as $85 million a year and have absolutely nothing to show for it.
We know that his "Southern Command" in Palm Beach alone can be worth up $50 million to his estate under the right conditions.
It's unlikely that his widow will keep it around forever. She was decades younger than he was and has a lot of living left to do.
Either way, unless Rush made a whole lot more effort to look out for his posterity than anyone but the tabloids suggests, she's the boss now.
There were no kids. She inherits it all.
Look carefully and you can see the tracks of what exactly that entails.
The Non-Profit Thread
Rush had lawyers on his side to structure his wishes. He hated taxes and shielded his privacy.
However, that privacy wasn't perfect. We know that the commercial rights to his show and auxiliary businesses were held in an LLC named after himself and his widow Kathryn.
Kathryn Adams Rush Hudson Limbaugh = KARHL. KARHL Holdings LLC was formed in 2010, when they got married.
It has two employees. It's them. And it shares an address with a charitable foundation the couple set up in their names.
The foundation's books are on record. It's relatively modest by billionaire standards, but a few million dollars a year have moved in and then out to Rush-friendly organizations.
Maybe it will inherit his stake in KARHL and start making huge grants. Either way, Kathryn will call the shots.
Now that Rush is gone, she and her aged mother are the only two officers of record.
And if she simply inherits his KARHL interest, the benefit goes to her.
Tabloids have suggested that Rush hated her toward the end and tried to cut her out of his will. I just don't see that.
For one thing, if he hated her, he would have carved up the holding company and wound down the foundation. None of that happened.
And where else would he put the money in the event of his death? He had a year to ponder mortality.
A prenuptial contract is remotely unlikely. Her name is on all the organizations, right up there with his, and these organizations were set up after the marriage.
He apparently wanted her to deal with his assets. Maybe that was part of the attraction.
She comes from some of the oldest money in New England. This is her dynastic world of galas and philanthropic planning.
For me, the biggest question is what happens to his legacy. The shows have a limited shelf life in rerun form, but there's a vast library of recorded material to mine.
He had millions of dedicated listeners. That audience is worth money too.
All it needs is a successor. That's the real question. Who inherits his desk and his microphone?