Anne Cox Chambers
A conversation with the famously private billionaire
Even though Anne (with an e, please) Cox Chambers reigns as the richest person in Atlanta—her estimated $13.4 billion almost ten times what Arthur Blank could cough up—you wouldn’t necessarily know it after a visit with the Cox Enterprises doyenne. Rosewood, her two-story white brick manse, is a vestige of pre-McMansion Old Atlanta, modest and tasteful by West Paces Ferry standards. (For contrast, see Lee “Big Poppa” Najjar’s gargantuan MTV-cataloged crib a few doors down.) Inside, sure, light from crystal chandeliers glints off marble floors and gilt-framed art. But the couches are comfy, overstuffed—made for enjoyment. Dog toys are strewn everywhere, her affection for canines besting any other design theme: a pack of pooch statues in her living room, oil paintings and drawings on the walls, a tangle of leashes by the door.
Chambers, at ninety-one, should be at the age—or tax bracket—where she doesn’t care what people think of her or her opinions. But famously private and media shy, she’s still reticent to speak about her role at Cox (which owns the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and WSB-TV, among many other outlets). She’s on the board of directors and is chairman of Atlanta Newspapers, but it’s clear from her clipped answers that her involvement—both in the company and in Atlanta politics—is minimal. She still has to mind what she says, though; after all, generations of her family are still rising in its ranks.
Chambers inherited her trusts and—after the deaths of her brother and sister—the largest ownership stake in Cox from her father, James M. Cox Sr., a former Ohio governor and 1920 Democratic presidential nominee. She’s spread that wealth to a laundry list of Atlanta causes: the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Fernbank Museum of Natural History, the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum, Shepherd Center, and the High Museum of Art (which named a wing after her in 2005), among others. She’s served on the boards of the Forward Arts Foundation, Coca-Cola, the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, the Atlanta Botanical Garden, Atlanta History Center, and Central Atlanta Progress. An avid gardener, Chambers was the first “Yankee” to be elected Peachtree Garden Club president.
The Francophile flew in from her home in Provence recently and spoke with Atlanta magazine senior editor Amanda Heckert. As one of her seven dogs, Missy, lolled on the foyer floor, Chambers, diminutive as a fairy, sat engulfed by a love seat in the morning room, giving a sigh before answering business questions and becoming most animated when speaking about her family, her causes—and a zebra.
Photograph by Alex Martinez