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Ronald S. Lauder

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Ronald S. Lauder

Ronald S. Lauder
Ronald S. Lauder in January 2009
United States Ambassador to Austria
In office
April 16, 1986 – October 27, 1987
Preceded by Helene A. von Damm
Succeeded by Henry Anatole Grunwald
Personal details
Born Ronald Steven Lauder
(1944-02-26) February 26, 1944 (age 70)
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Occupation Chairman Emeritus of Estee Lauder

Ronald Steven Lauder (born February 26, 1944) is an American businessman and philanthropist. Forbes lists Lauder among the richest people of the world with an estimated net worth of $3.3 billion in 2011.[1]

Life and career

Lauder was born in New York City, the son of Estée Lauder and Joseph Lauder, founders of Estée Lauder Companies, and the younger brother of Leonard Lauder, chairman of the board of the Estee Lauder company. He attended the Bronx High School of Science and holds a Bachelors degree in International Business from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

He studied at the University of Paris, and received a Certificate in International Business from the University of Brussels. He is married to Jo Carole (Knopf) Lauder,[2][3] and has two children, Aerin and Jane. Lauder started to work for the Estee Lauder Company in 1964. In 1984 he became a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European and NATO policy at The Pentagon.

In 1986 Ronald Reagan named him as the US ambassador to Austria, a position he held until 1987. As ambassador, he fired diplomatic officer Felix Bloch, who later became known in connection with Robert Hanssen espionage case.[4]

As a Republican, he made a bid to become the mayor of New York City in 1989, losing to Rudy Giuliani in the Republican primary. Michael Massing, writing of this nomination race, notes that politically Lauder “seemed out of step with most American Jews; ... he ran to the right of Rudolph Giuliani. And, on Israeli issues, he was a vocal Likudnik, with long-standing ties to Benjamin Netanyahu.[5]

In 1998, Lauder was asked by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to begin Track II negotiations with Syrian leader Hafez al-Asad; these negotiations continued after the election of Ehud Barak to the post. Lauder communicated a new-found willingness on Asad's part to make compromises with the Israelis in an overall land for peace deal, and his draft "Treaty of Peace Between Israel and Syria" formed an important part of the (ultimately fruitless) Israeli-Syrian negotiations that occurred in January 2000 in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.[6]

Lauder manages investments in real estate and media, including Central European Media Enterprises and Israeli TV. In 2010, Lauder founded RWL Water, LLC.

His daughter Jane is married to Kevin Warsh, a former member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve.[7]

Civic and philanthropic activities

Lauder led a movement to introduce term limits in the New York City Council, which were imposed on most NYC elected officials, including the Mayor and City Council, after citywide referendum in 1993. In 1996, voters turned down a council proposal to extend term limits. Lauder spent $4 million on the two referendums. He has been involved in environmental conservation efforts in eastern Long Island and has served on the board of directors of the conservation organization Group for the East End since 2002.


On November 16, 2001, Lauder opened the Neue Galerie in New York, an art museum across the street from the Metropolitan Museum, dedicated to art from Germany and Austria from the early 20th century. It holds one of the best collections of works by Egon Schiele in the world. On June 18, 2006, he purchased from Maria Altmann and her family, the painting Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I by Gustav Klimt for $135 million, the highest price ever paid for a painting at that time. The picture, a Nazi-looted piece which had just been restored to Altmann following years of negotiation and litigation with the Austrian government, now forms the centerpiece of the museum's collection. Lauder also has the world’s largest private collection of medieval and Renaissance armor.

Lauder has been instrumental in a number of cases in recovering “lost” art from the Nazi period.[8] He has been criticized for failure to resolve a case involving the Museum of Modern Art, which in 1997 exhibited some paintings owned by Rudolph Leopold, a Viennese doctor and art collector. An investigative article in the New York Times on December 24, 1997 — "A Singular Passion for Amassing Art, One Way or Another" — outlined a case involving Portrait of Wally by Egon Schiele, which was in the MoMA exhibition but was obtained by Leopold soon after the Nazi era. The Manhattan DA stepped in to help restore the piece to descendants of its original owner, but ownership of the painting is still in contention, nearly 10 years later. Lauder has been accused of a failure to act on the case, despite being MoMA chairman at the time.[9]

Lauder is an honorary trustee of the World Monuments Fund, a New York-based non-profit with the mission of protecting endangered cultural heritage sites around the world.

Ronald S. Lauder Foundation

In 1987, Lauder established the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation, a philanthropic organization that is dedicated to rebuild Jewish communities in Central and Eastern Europe. The foundation also supports student exchange programs between New York and various capitals in Central and Eastern Europe.

Lauder is actively involved in numerous civic organizations, including the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the Jewish National Fund, the World Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Theological Seminary, Brandeis University, and the Abraham Fund. With his brother he founded the Lauder Institute at Wharton School. Lauder has also served as a Finance Chairman of the New York State Republican Committee. In 2003 Lauder founded and became a president of Lauder Business School in Vienna, Austria.

President of the World Jewish Congress

Lauder was elected President of the World Jewish Congress on June 10, 2007, following the resignation of Edgar Bronfman, Sr.. He beat the South African businessman Mendel Kaplan and Einat Wilf of Israel by a clear margin. As head of the international Jewish umbrella organization, he has met with a number of heads of state and government, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Pope Benedict XVI, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer, Czech President Václav Klaus, Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Swiss President Pascal Couchepin, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.

President George W. Bush appointed him to serve on the honorary delegation to accompany him to Jerusalem for the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel in May 2008.[10]

In July 2009, Bernie Ecclestone faced calls from Lauder to resign as Formula One chief after he had praised Adolf Hitler in a newspaper interview and said that Hitler “got things done.” Lauder said someone with Ecclestone's views should not be allowed to run such an important and popular racing series. He urged Formula One teams, drivers and host countries to suspend their cooperation with him. In reaction, Ecclestone told the news agency Associated Press that "I think the people who are saying that haven't got the power to say these things." Asked if the World Jewish Congress was influential, Ecclestone said: "It's a pity they didn't sort the banks out" and "They have a lot of influence everywhere." After a public outcry, Ecclestone apologized for his remarks and said he had "been an idiot".[11][12][13]

In December 2009, Lauder protested against the Roman Curia's decree recognizing the heroic virtues of Pope Pius XII, asserting that an eventual beatification would be inopportune until the Holy See's historical archives from the 1939–1945 period were opened.[14]

In 2011, writing in the German newspaper Die Welt,[15] Lauder called for Israel to be admitted into the Western defense alliance NATO: “Israel needs real guarantees for its security. European NATO member states – including Turkey – must admit the state of Israel into the Western alliance,” the WJC president wrote. He referred to the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia and said they were reminders of how "unpredictable" developments in the Middle East were. Israeli NATO membership "would send a strong signal to other countries not to take on Israel", Lauder argued.[16]

Lauder has also been outspoken on anti-Semitism. In an opinion article entitled "Sweden's Shame", he attacked the Swedish government, church officials and media for "fanning the flames" of hatred against Jews.[17]

In May 2012, Lauder condemned as "despicable" remarks made by the Norwegian sociologist Johan Galtung who had "revived anti-Semitic canards such as Jewish control of the media" and suggested that Israel's Mossad could have been behind the 2011 "massacres in Norway committed by Anders Breivik" in which 77 people died. Lauder declared: "There is a growing tendency to blame the Jews for all evil that happens under the sun. It is a scandal that a leading academics such as Galtung does not shy away from citing notorious forgeries such as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion to support his bigoted arguments."[18]

In August 2012, Lauder criticized Austrian politicians for failing to publicly denounce the leader of the third-largest political party in the country, the FPÖ, Heinz-Christian Strache, who had posted an anti-Semitic cartoon on his Facebook page. "Clearly, and not for the first time, the FPÖ leader is trying to whip up anti-Semitic sentiment. His repeated denials are not credible because his words and actions speak for themselves," Ronald Lauder said in a statement, adding: "This scandal shows that anti-Jewish resentment is still widespread, and unscrupulous politicians are allowed to exploit it for electioneering purposes. That is mind-boggling, and it could have negative repercussions for Austrian Jews."[19]

Lauder has been strongly critical of business deals by European energy firms with Iran and called for stronger UN sanctions because of Tehran's threat against Israel and its nuclear program. In April 2008, he criticized a visit by Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey to Tehran where she met with Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to help a Swiss company secure a multi-billion dollar contract to buy natural gas from Iran. Lauder told a press conference in Bern: "Maybe that money that Switzerland is paying to Iran will some day be used to either buy weapons to kill Israelis, or buy weapons to kill Americans, or buy missiles to be able to deliver nuclear weapons."[20] Lauder also led diplomatic efforts to persuade European businesses to withdraw from Iran. In January 2010, he warmly welcomed the announcement by Siemens CEO Peter Löscher that his company would not seek new business in Iran.[21]

Israel activism

Lauder has repeatedly come to the defense of Israel in public and is seen as an ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In May 2012, he reacted "with dismay" at a suggestion by Ireland's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore to impose a European Union-wide import ban on products made in Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which Gilmore said were “illegal” and made peace between Israel and the Palestinians “impossible”. Lauder said: “Such boycott calls are cynical and hypocritical. Minister Gilmore is taking aim at the only liberal democracy in the Middle East while keeping quiet about those who really wreak havoc in the region: the Assads, Ahmadinejads and their allies Hezbollah and Hamas.” He added that “the West Bank territories are legally disputed and not illegally occupied.”[22]

In remarks to the International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians made on June 28, 2011, Lauder reportedly scolded Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a number of missteps, including lacking a diplomatic plan heading into the September UN vote on Palestinian statehood and setting preconditions for negotiations as part of the peace process in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, according to Haaretz.[23] However, in June 2012, on the third anniversary of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech at Bar-Ilan University, Lauder published a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal and other newspapers in which he called on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to return to the negotiating table. "Accept the offer to talk, President Abbas. It takes two sides to make peace," Lauder wrote.[24]

Channel 10

Lauder has participated in a number of large media deals in Israel, among which was his purchase of part of Channel 10.

In September 2011 Israeli media published accounts that Lauder had put heavy pressure on the executives of the channel to broadcast a personal apology to the businessman Sheldon Adelson with regards to a profile that the channel had broadcast in January 2011. The apology read, "After the broadcast of the piece, we checked the accusations. Our checks revealed that the accusations were – and are – completely false... We are very regretful that we did not check these accusations before broadcasting them." Lauder's forcing of the form of the apology led to the resignation of the channel's news chief Reudor Benziman, its news editor Ruti Yuval, and its presenter Guy Zohar (who continues in another post in Channel 10), who criticized Ron Lauder for the pressure he exerted.[25][26] Because of the attacks, detailed above, on Lauder (who had been until then the last major funder of the channel), he decided to reconsider his financial support. If the channel lost his funding, it would have difficulty continuing to operate to its current standard past October 2011.[27]

On November 3, 2011 the Second Authority reached a decision on the issue in which it decided that the apology to Adelson broadcast by the channel was appropriate and that "no evidence has been presented that there was any intervention by the shareholders of Channel 10 on new content, or even on the text of the apology, which was agreed between the news company and the person injured by the broadcast."[28]

Tax payments

Lauder has arranged his financial affairs to minimize his U.S. income tax, as his lawyers acknowledge. Some tax experts believe that these arrangements are an example of policies that, while legal and widely used, are unfair because they allow the wealthy to lower their taxes.[29]

For example, Lauder donated much of his art collection, worth more than $1 billion, to a private foundation, which qualified him for deductions worth tens of millions of dollars.

A transaction known as a variable prepaid forward, in which he contracted to sell $72 million of stock to an investment bank in 2014 for 75% of its current value in return for cash in 2011, may defer as much as $10 million in federal income tax from 2011 until 2014. Tax experts say that at that time, he can use other methods to further defer paying taxes. In 2006 the I.R.S. said it appeared to be an abusive tax shelter and issued tighter restrictions to regulate the practice. In 1988, when he ran for mayor of New York, he reported paying 30% in total federal, state and city taxes on $30 million in income.[29]

Sheldon Cohen, a former I.R.S. commissioner, said that when used as intended, the tax code’s breaks for art collectors balance private interests with the public good. “If an art collector makes significant contributions, and the public actually gets access to the works they are donating, then the major thing the collector gets is prestige and social status.” Lauder has made his artwork available for viewing by the general public in museums including the Neue Galerie.[29]

Accusations by Austrian Jewish community leader

The Israelitische Kultusgemeinde Wien banned[30][31][32] Ronald Lauder for allegedly interfering in its board elections. IKG President Oskar Deutsch alleged that Lauder had offered incentives to members of the IKG to support another candidate. A Lauder spokesman denied the allegations.[33] In January 2013, it was reported that Deutsch and Lauder had resolved their dispute.[34]

See also


  • Lauder, RS. Fighting Violent Crime in America. Dodd Mead (April 1985). ISBN 0-396-08495-8

Anne-Marie O'Connor. The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt's Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer. Alfred A. Knopf, New York 2012, ISBN 0-307-26564-1


External links

  • World Jewish Congress
  • Lauder Institute
  • Jewish National Fund
  • World Jewish Congress, elected June 2007
  • Central European Media Enterprises
  • RWL Water Group
  • Forbes
  • C-SPAN
  • Internet Movie Database
  • WorldCat catalog)
  • Template:Nndb
  • Template:Bloombergtopic
  • Template:NYTtopic
  • The New York Observer
  • Template:JPosttopic
Party political offices
Preceded by
Diane McGrath
Conservative Nominee for Mayor of New York City
Succeeded by
George Marlin
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Helene A. von Damm
U.S. Ambassador to Austria
Succeeded by
Henry Anatole Grunwald

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