Conservation Philanthropists Acquire White Oak

Plan to Build Upon Legacy Established by Howard Gilman

Mar 19, 2013, 17:29 ET from White Oak

YULEE, Fla., March 19, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The Howard Gilman Foundation announced that it has completed the sale of White Oak, a 7,400-acre wildlife conservation facility, resort and conference center, to Mark and Kimbra Walter, whose philanthropy already supports conservation and wildlife programs across North America.

The Walters intend to continue and expand the internationally renowned wildlife sustainability programs that have been the hallmark of White Oak for more than 30 years.  In addition, the Walters will continue to vigorously support the arts at White Oak through the Mikhail Baryshnikov Dance Studio and other initiatives.

"We are honored to be the new stewards of White Oak and its unique and valuable conservation programs, which Howard Gilman initiated and his staff so ably managed," Mr. Walter said.  "Our primary mission is to build upon the work already underway at White Oak to create an international model for the humane and effective breeding and repopulation of endangered species.  We also envision White Oak as a gathering point to inspire ideas and collaborations among individuals and organizations interested not only in conservation but issues such as environmental sustainability, land stewardship, arts and education."

The Howard Gilman Foundation, a private foundation based in New York City, placed White Oak for sale in April 2012 with the express intention of finding a qualified buyer who shared the values and traditions that Howard Gilman supported altruistically through his foundation, which had oversight of White Oak.  The sale of White Oak marks the departure of the Howard Gilman Foundation from the ownership of resources primarily dedicated to the breeding and conservation of imperiled wildlife species. 

The Walters became interested in the property and its wildlife conservation and hospitality operations in late 2012, resulting in the asset transaction and assumption of operating responsibilities.  In addition to White Oak, the Walters support conservation programs in Texas and New Mexico and are supporters of the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. 

"The Walter family shares many of the perspectives on wildlife conservation and the performing arts that Mr. Gilman considered important," said Mary Farrell, President of the Howard Gilman Foundation.  "The Foundation's board of directors and I are confident that Mr. and Ms. Walter will maintain and build upon the legacy Mr. Gilman fostered and his foundation has supported."

The Walters have appointed Steve Shurter as Executive Director of White Oak Conservation Holdings, LLC, which the Walters established to manage the entire White Oak operation and facilities.  Mr. Shurter is actively involved in global zoo and wildlife conservation efforts: He is Chairman of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Rhino Advisory Group, serves on the Board of the IUCN Species Survival Commission Giraffe and Okapi Specialist Group, and is a member of the IUCN Antelope Specialist Group, the IUCN Asian Wild Cattle Specialist Group and Saola Working Group.  

"It is indeed a privilege to work with Mark and Kimbra Walter on the continued development of White Oak," said Mr. Shurter. "The Walters recognize the important contributions White Oak provides to our community and wildlife programs. Their goals are ambitious and inspiring, and White Oak can play an important role in realizing them." 

The Walters, White Oak management and their advisors will undertake a comprehensive strategic planning process to determine the most effective ways for White Oak to carry out its intended mission.

Mr. Walter is Chief Executive Officer of Guggenheim Capital, LLC and the Chairman and controlling owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Mr. Walter serves as a trustee or director of several organizations including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Security Benefit Corporation, and the EquiTrust Life holding company, and he is the controlling shareholder of Delaware Life Holdings, LLC.

Ms. Walter is a member of the board of directors of Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo.  She also is active in charitable organizations in the Chicago area that support the needs of economically disadvantaged children and families in need.  The Walters philanthropic interests include the environment, animal welfare and conservation; arts, culture and humanities; education; health and medical research; and human/social services and community.

ABOUT WHITE OAK:  Located on the banks of the St. Marys River, 30 miles north of Jacksonville, Florida, White Oak encompasses more than 7,400 acres of hardwood hammocks, pine forest, and tidal wetlands.  White Oak sustains some of the Earth's rarest wild animals through innovative conservation training, research, education, breeding and field programs that contribute to the survival of wildlife in nature.  White Oak is a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and has on-site veterinary clinic, student training and research facilities.  White Oak has also served as a productive setting for conferences and workshops with its meeting facilities and lodging options. More information can be found here:

ABOUT THE HOWARD GILMAN FOUNDATION (HGF):  Guided by the vision and passions of Howard Gilman, the mission of HGF is to preserve and protect those areas Mr. Gilman considered most vulnerable and in need of his help.  This includes the conservation of endangered animals, the support and nourishment of the arts and public policy.  More information can be found here:

SOURCE White Oak