Paul Newman's Children Sue His Newman's Own Foundation Over 'Questionable Practices'
Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty; Steve Granitz/WireImage
Two of legendary actor Paul Newman's five daughters have filed a lawsuit against their family's foundation, Newman's Own Foundation.
Elinor "Nell" Newman and Susan Newman are seeking $1.6 million in damages to further benefit charities. They claim the foundation has strayed from using funding meant to aid in financial support for charities important to the late actor, including those involving the arts, climate change awareness, and environmental issues.
"The years since Mr. Newman's death consist of a long and consistent pattern of disregard, by those in control, of Mr. Newman's specific intentions and direction, coupled with mismanagement, scandal, and questionable practices," reads the suit, which was filed in Connecticut state court and obtained by PEOPLE.
The lawsuit also claims that the board has decreased the amount of money it has given Paul's daughters over the years for their charitable giving.
Nell and Susan say the amount they have received on an annual basis for charitable donations has decreased from $400,000 to $200,000.
The business of doing good all began with a salad dressing back in 1982, when Paul and his friend, A. E. Hotchner, made a small batch of vinaigrette as Christmas presents for their friends. When they kept returning for more, he got the idea — his dressing could make money for a good cause. Told the products would sell better in supermarkets if he put his face on the label, Paul said, "Once we decided that's what we wanted to do, we decided we'd give the money away."
"We had no idea whether the business would be successful," admitted Paul, who from the beginning, insisted that 100 percent of the after-tax profits go straight to charities and causes he believed in.
After salad dressing, came pasta sauce, lemonade, popcorn, salsa and pizza. Today, there are over 300 different Newman's Own products.
Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Images
Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.
Paul's daughters' attorney, Andy Lee of Foley & Lardner, tells PEOPLE, "No one should have to feel that the legacy of a departed loved one is being dishonored in the way that Newman's Own Foundation has disregarded the daughters of Paul Newman."
Lee added, "This lawsuit does not seek personal compensation for Mr. Newman's daughters, but simply seeks to hold NOF accountable to the charities they have shortchanged in recent years and would ensure they receive an increased level of support in the future, in line with Mr. Newman's wishes."
The actor had three daughters, Nell, Melissa, and Clea, with his wife, Joanne Woodward, 92, and two daughters, Susan and Stephanie, from his first marriage to Jackie Witte. His son with Witte, Scott Newman, died from a drug overdose in 1988 at age 28.
Only Nell and Susan are part of the lawsuit. The other family members declined to comment, according to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news.
In a statement to PEOPLE, a Newman's Own Foundation spokesperson responded to the lawsuit. "The Board's philanthropic giving decisions vary each year and the importance of our mission requires us to make the best use of our finite resources," they said.
RELATED: Remembering Paul Newman 10 Years After His Death: 'His Real Heart Was About Philanthropy'
The spokesperson continued: "Paul Newman established the Newman's Own Foundation as a private foundation in 2005. The Foundation is governed by a board of directors that must adhere to regulations applicable to 501(c)(3) organizations."
The spokesperson went on to call the lawsuit of Newman's two daughters "meritless."
"Best practices surrounding philanthropic organizations do not allow for the establishment of perpetual funding allotments for anyone, including Nell and Susan Newman. A meritless lawsuit based on this faulty wish would only divert money away from those who benefit from Paul Newman's generosity," they said.
RELATED: First Look: New Collection of Intimate Paul Newman Photos Captures the Icon's 'Goofball' Side
Images Press/IMAGES/Getty Images
"While we expect to continue to solicit Newman family recommendations for worthy organizations, our funding decisions are made each year and will continue to reflect the clear aim of Paul Newman and our responsibility to the best practices governing private foundations," the Newton's Foundation concluded.
Paul, who died at age 83 on Sept 26, 2008, was famous for his piercing blue eyes, a rugged handsomeness and memorable performances in such films as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting, Cool Hand Luke, and The Verdict.
Acc Art Books
While his movies gave him swooning fans and numerous awards, including an Oscar for 1986's The Color of Money, it was his ability to make — and give away — a fortune that made him happiest.
The foundation, which he established three years before his death, has donated over 500 million dollars to thousands of non profits worldwide, including the SeriousFun Children's Network, a group of camps and programs for children with life threatening illnesses (where kids go free of charge); Wholesome Wave, which helps provide affordable access to healthy produce; and Shofco, which helps transform urban slums in Kenya.