Small Indiana community gets $150 million donation

A man who lived most of his life away from Elkhart returns and leaves his entire fortune to the area.

By Kim Peterson Sep 20, 2013 3:09PM
Producer David Gundlach attends the 'Get Low' after party held at The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on July 27, 2010 in Beverly Hills, Calif. (© Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)At a time when many cities are struggling to tighten budgets and continue serving residents, Elkhart, Ind., is rolling in the dough.

That's largely because of one man, David Gundlach (pictured), who grew up in Elkhart and willed the Elkhart County Community Foundation his entire $150 million fortune, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Gundlach died of a heart attack in 2011 at age 56. Even then, many Elkhart residents didn't know him all that well, The Journal reports. He had bought a house there in 2007, but was only a semi-regular visitor to the town. But now, everyone knows his name.

Gundlach never had that many friends when he grew up in Elkhart, and left after high school to embark upon a career that would eventually take him to the U.K., where he built up a successful car-insurance company that he sold in 2006 for $260 million, The Journal reports.

He bought mansions across the country and even financed a Hollywood film. He tried day trading and lost $6 million in 24 hours, The Journal reports. He began spending more time in Elkhart and tried to reconnect with some old acquaintances -- some of whom couldn't recall who he was. He had never married and had no children, and was considered a loner and a socially awkward eccentric. Only 50 people reportedly attended his funeral.

He left an estate worth $150 million to the community foundation, which included 11 homes, 15 cars and valuable works of art, The Journal reports. He did not stipulate how the money should be spent, either, though the foundation is required by law to spend at least 5% of its endowment each year. That's at least $7.5 million a year going to community projects in and around the town of just 50,000 residents.

Now, town leaders are trying to figure out just how to spend that money. Fixing up the schools and animal shelters is certainly a consideration, as is improving relations with the local Amish community. The first grants will go our next year, The Journal reports.

"At the end of the day, he really wanted to help people," Robert Kloska, one of Gundlach's friends, told the newspaper.

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Sep 20, 2013 5:03PM

This is wonderful news for Elkhart who took such a hard hit during the recent recession.


It's rather a sad story about Mr. Gundlach, however.  He must have been a very lonely man.

Sep 20, 2013 11:36PM

I am a lifelong resident of Elkhart and the article doesn't really give all of the facts nor does it present the situation clearly. There are many people in this town who knew and remembered Mr. Gundlach, his mother still lives here. The Community Foundation cannot lower taxes or anything else government related as it is not a "government" entity. It is a foundation that helps to promote the Arts and education in the whole county, not just the city of Elkhart. There have been endowments made already including money to help offset some of the cost of the Elkhart Jazz Festival that is held every summer, money to match donations to rebuild a beloved tower in a county park that was burned down by an arsonist, and money to help with the cost of the Lerner Theater that was restored to it's original glory a couple of years ago and has become a beautiful diamond in the center of our downtown area. There were many more endowments made and I for one did not find any of them to be frivolous or unnecessary. I believe the foundation is making every attempt to make the right decisions and I trust that they will continue to do what is best, within their limited capacity, for the county with the money that Mr. Gundlach so graciously entrusted to them.

Sep 21, 2013 12:39AM

Did the writer of the article have to comment on how people didn't know him or he was considered a socially awkward eccentric, a loner and that only 50 people were at his funeral? How about just being grateful that this man was generous?


That was totally distasteful and inconsiderate of the writer.

Sep 20, 2013 4:43PM
He looks like Harry on dumb and dumber. with that said, RIP you are a great person in life and hopefully the other side is good to you as well.
Sep 20, 2013 6:48PM
He had it figured can't take it with you. May God Bless!
Sep 20, 2013 11:14PM
avatar would be a real shame if the community didn't spend a little on a nice memorial for the guy.
Sep 20, 2013 5:37PM

I believe the town should save the money and only spend the minimum each year.  If the town is a bit downtrodden, maybe make some bulk food purchases to fill up people's pantries, offer to install energy saving windows, good thermostats, etc., and issue vouchers payable to the local utilities to help people catch up a bit.  I hope they don't go all "lottery winner" with the money and find ways to spend it for the sake of spending it and end up bankrupt in 5 years.  $150M sounds like a lot of money, but it really isn't and could be pizzed away quite easily.

Sep 20, 2013 6:03PM

That was a great thing for this man to do, lets just hope the city of Elkhart doesn't put there hands in the till where it doesn't

belong, I wouldn't trust one public works person who is put in charge of this money.

Sep 20, 2013 6:01PM
HERE IS WHAT'S GOIONG TO HAPPEN THEY well start a committee, get 60 lawyers, there it goe's gone in 60 second's
Sep 20, 2013 9:29PM

Not sure if some read the entire Article or understand the concept; From some of the comments.


The Money goes to a Community Foundation; Already in place...Normally they "do not spend" money WILLY NILLY....They are also required by Law to spend 5% of "any" endowments yearly.

This money could be everlasting for quite sometime...


I believe I read, and it made National News where Elkhart, Ind. lost a major employer back near the beginning of our Recession; Recreational Vehicles or Campers, etc...Something like that.

Un-employment jumped from 5% to 10-15% overnight; One of the highest in the Nation.

I hope they do well with their "new found" fortune...

And Mr. Gundlach, should be considered a friend and benefactor by all of them. 

Sep 20, 2013 5:06PM
This is for all you people who say "tax the rich"! It's amazing how philanthropic many rich people are and how the cash eventually goes back into the economy. This guy presumably donated 75% of his fortune, very generous . For those of you (myself included) who only make 50 or 60 a year try donating $40,000 for starters.
Sep 20, 2013 7:04PM
didn't know if anyone loved him for him or his money. sad, could of had both. no worries now though.
Sep 20, 2013 7:47PM
The town doesn't know what to do with 150 million?  How about lower taxes on their residents.  That would be a good start.
Sep 20, 2013 7:01PM

Hopefully the money is spent in the interest of the community and not of the committee. I have a feeling a substantial amount will end up lining the pockets of people that will "charge their time" to the  town.

Sep 21, 2013 10:19AM








Sep 20, 2013 7:14PM
hopefully they invest this money into a 20 year trust so it makes money every year, Take 7.5 mil annually and invest it into the town, Tablets for the kids in Schools, to bring them to the 21st century education, Invest in the poor and disabled to provide for some of their needs, Invest yearly into infrastructure upgrades only when funded by grants and scheduled general funds. No matter what, a court appointed administrator should be appointed to make sure the Trust is being invested wisely, and yearly withdrawals are being wisely used. Otherwise the city will blow this money.
Sep 20, 2013 10:20PM
I wouldn't consider using the money to improve relations with the Amish.  They enjoy all the benefits and freedoms of this country and never fought for them.  I think the money would be much better spent creating jobs for the residents and attracting new businesses.  In other words, use the money to make money come in. 
Sep 20, 2013 8:33PM
I bet if he had disclosed his fortune to the locals they would surely have been his close brown nosed friends,for life
Sep 20, 2013 6:21PM
How sad if true..... A man no one knew stands alone in his home town, why did he leave his money to them?  
Sep 21, 2013 12:47PM

 I wonder how long it will take the Town board to issue themselves new Escalades for "Municipal" use. 

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