Lauder gives $131 million to the Whitney

By Laurie Bennett

March 19, 2008 at 9:36am

Cosmetics magnate Leonard A. Lauder has made the biggest gift the Whitney Museum has ever received.

Lauder, chairman of the museum board and of Estee Lauder Companies, is contributing $131 million to the Whitney, with most of the gift going to the art museum endowment.

The Lauders rank as a first family of the New York art world. Leonard Lauder’s brother, Ronald S. Lauder, is chairman emeritus of the Museum of Modern Art and a co-founder of the Neue Galerie.

By jingling the coins in his pocket, Leonard Lauder may prompt other Whitney trustees to increase their support. Among the board’s many wealthy members:

· Wall Street financier Thomas H. Lee, who is also a trustee of the Museum of Modern Art. His wife, Ann Tenenbaum, is a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a member of the New York City Art Commission. The couple were also major benefactors of the Dia:Beacon, on the Hudson north of New York City.

· Wilbur Ross, who is in the midst of a $1.1 billion deal to buy H&R Block’s Option One mortgage servicing business

· Chicago developer Neil G. Bluhm, who is also a trustee of the Art Institute of Chicago

· Billionaire Steven Roth, chairman of Vornado Realty

· Eric Mindich, chief of the Eton Park hedge fund

· Norton Utilities creator Peter Norton, who also sits on the board of the Museum of Modern Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

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