Lilly Endowment sells more than $500 million in Eli Lilly stock

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The Lilly Endowment has cashed out of more than a half-billion dollars’ worth of stock in its namesake company, drugmaker Eli Lilly and Co., in recent months, signaling that it is about to make another large round of grants to organizations in Indiana and beyond.

The huge endowment sold more than 1.6 million shares of Lilly stock in a two-month period between May 16 and July 15, raising more than $508 million, according to an IBJ review of Form 4 filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The stock sale is a primary way for the endowment, one of the largest private philanthropic foundations in the United States, to raise cash to make grants to arts, education, religious and community development organizations.

Under federal law, private foundations are required to make charitable donations equal to or more than 5% of their assets during a given year.

“The primary reason for the Endowment’s recent stock sales is to obtain the cash required to meet our grantmaking responsibilities,” endowment spokeswoman Judith Cebula told IBJ in an email.

The sales occurred in 52 separate transactions in blocks ranging from 62 to 113,470 shares.

Last year, the endowment approved $634.1 million worth of program grants, and issued another $17.6 million in program and operational support.

Its net assets at the end of last year were $32.3 billion, up 56% from a year earlier. Much of that increase is due to the rise in value of Eli Lilly shares, which have climbed more than 40% in the past 52 weeks.

The endowment has been aggressively selling shares over the years to raise cash for its grants. Since 2003, the Lilly Endowment has sold more than 46 million Eli Lilly and Co. shares, or about 30% of its holdings. In the past two years alone, it has unloaded 6 million shares.

Even so, the endowment remains the largest holder of Lilly stock, with 107.5 million shares, or about 11.3% of the drugmaker’s outstanding shares as of Dec. 31, 2021.

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