There is no universal or legal definition of foundation. A foundation can be a trust, company, or other entity; and be either not for profit, or for profit. A foundation can be established under a will, by an individual, family, company or the community.
Liechtenstein is one of the few countries which allows a private foundation. The Liechtenstein foundation has its legal basis in the Persons and Company Law (PGR – Personen- und Gesellschaftsrecht) of January 20, 1926, and is extremely flexible as it may pursue any lawful purpose. For example, the family foundations purpose is the protection, administration and maintenance of family assets to ensure the support of family members. Neither the gifting of assets to the foundation, distributions to the beneficiaries, or realised profits made by the foundation, are subject to any taxation in Liechtenstein.
Ian Robert Maxwell MC (1923 – 1991), was a British media proprietor and Member of Parliament. Maxwell established the Maxwell Foundation in Liechtenstein in 1970 to hold his family assets. The foundation controlled his media assets including Pergamon Press, the Mirror Group Newspapers, Nimbus Records, Maxwell Directories, MTV in Europe, Printing Corporation, and Macmillan Inc. The Maxwell Foundation was always shrouded in secrecy and mystic, and it’s actually assets, liabilities, and financial position was unknown (just as Robert Maxwell wanted it).
In 1991, Maxwell’s body was discovered floating in the Atlantic Ocean (off the Canary Islands) having fallen overboard from his yacht, Lady Ghislaine. After Maxwell’s death, the Maxwell group collapsed. It subsequently, emerged that he had stolen hundreds of millions of pounds from his companies' pension funds to shore up the shares of the Mirror Group (to try and save his companies from bankruptcy).